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Profiling case settled in Fairmont

By Staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Law enforcement officers in Marion County have agreed to pay damages to a black college student after they subjected him to an intrusive roadside search, damaged his car and destroyed his computer, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia.

Justin Byrd was driving in downtown Fairmont in the spring of 2011 when he was rear-ended by another car, driven by a white female, the ACLU said in a press release.

When officers from the Fairmont Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department arrived on the scene, Byrd and his passengers, who were also black, were removed from their car, asked about drugs and guns and asked if they had stolen the car, despite providing proof of ownership, the ACLU said.

Byrd was detained and officers then searched the car without his permission. They found no evidence, but then called in a K-9 to search the car. The K-9 destroyed Byrd's laptop and damaged the car.

Officers found no criminal evidence and no charges were filed, but Byrd and his passengers were detained for about an hour, the ACLU said.

Specific terms of the settlement were not immediately disclosed, but the defendants agreed to replace Byrd's computer and to pay damages for the search.

The city of Fairmont also agreed to revise its racial profiling policies, the ACLU said.


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