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Officer defends use of Taser on pregnant 18-year-old and firefighter

EAST BANK, W.Va. -- Council members heard from a town police officer who admitted using his Taser on a pregnant 18-year-old and a town firefighter.

Sgt. Steve Smith told East Bank town council members he meant no harm to either of the two and had the Taser turned to very low power.

Thursday's meeting was called by Bill Thompson, the town's recorder and police commissioner. Earlier Thursday, Thompson was arraigned on a felony charge of retaliating against a police officer and two misdemeanors in Kanawha County Magistrate Court. The criminal complaint against him was signed by Smith.

Thompson said the charges were retaliation by East Bank police for an incident at last week's town council meeting.

On Thursday, Candice White, 18, told the council she was sitting on her porch when Smith, a friend of her mother's at the time, showed up.

"He was just playing around. He [used the Taser] on my leg three times, then again. It left star marks on my body," White said.

White said she told him to stop and smacked at the Taser. Afterward, White said Smith told her not to tell Bob Stone, an East Bank councilman. White said she was pregnant when the incident occurred.

Another woman, Samantha White, said she saw Smith shoot Candice White with the Taser three times. It was not clear if the two women are related.

Candice White's mother also said she saw the incident. She acknowledged that she was friends with Smith at the time.

Councilman Mickey Ramsey asked Samantha White why the incident hadn't been reported.

"I'm not real sure," she said.

Smith told council members that Candice White had asked if she could get a Taser. He told her yes and that he was trained to certify her in its use, and part of the training involved getting shocked with the Taser. He said she asked to be Tasered and that he had the Taser's power setting very low. He said he didn't know she was pregnant.

The police officer wanted to question his accusers, but was directed by Mayor Chuck Blair to speak directly to the council. He said the incident was before the council because he had a falling out with Candice White's mother.

Councilwoman Lucretia Scalise asked if the Taser was considered a weapon.

"It's considered a tool," Smith said. He later added, "It was probably not the smartest thing to do."

Smith said Thompson had violated his rights by starting an investigation into his duties as a police officer without telling him.

A young man from the East Bank Volunteer Fire Department also told the council he was Tasered by Smith.

"He Tasered me because it was my birthday," the firefighter said, adding that his back was turned when Smith used the Taser on him.

"It didn't hurt me. I had no problem with it, it didn't hurt," he said.

Smith characterized that incident as "horseplay."

"We beat on each other all the time, don't we?" he said, looking at the firefighter.

East Bank Police Chief Jess Inclenrock said he knew about the incident with the firefighter from August, but not about the incident with White. He said he didn't fill out any kind of report on the incident, but told Smith, "Don't play games with a Taser."

Council members went behind closed doors to discuss discipline for Smith. They emerged and said they were forming a three-person panel to investigate the matter, as required by town law.

Thompson asked the council to protect the individuals who spoke before it from the police department. "They are scared," he said.

One man stood up to address the council.
"If you are out here carrying on, you are not going to get any respect from the citizens," he said to Smith. "There is no control in this town, and there hasn't been for several years."

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