CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia State Police officials say allegations that a student was beaten while unconscious during a training session at the State Police Academy are false, and say they would welcome an independent investigation into the matter.
Gov. Joe Manchin discussed just such an independent investigation Tuesday, said Matt Turner, Manchin's spokesman.
"The governor would like to see that happen," Turner said. "How it might go about is not in place yet, but we will see."
When contacted by The Charleston Gazette, Princeton police officer Christopher Winkler and his family said two academy trainers beat him during baton training on April 5.
State Police Superintendent Col. Timothy S. Pack issued a statement Thursday saying Winkler didn't receive any direct hits to the head or neck. He said the training was immediately halted when it became apparent that Winkler was in distress.
"The allegations that have been portrayed in the media are without merit. In fact, they are simply untrue," Pack said in the statement, read by State Police spokesman Sgt. Michael Baylous at a press conference at State Police headquarters in South Charleston.
"Officer Winkler was not beaten while he lay on the floor in a state of distress," Pack said in the statement. "After an internal inquiry which included the interviews of other basic officers in attendance and several Academy Staff Members consisting of West Virginia State Troopers and officers from various other agencies, it was determined that Basic Officer Winkler was neither abused nor mistreated in any manner."
Pack did not attend the news conference and did not speak to reporters.
According to Pack's statement, witnesses said Winkler didn't receive any direct hits to the head or neck. Winkler walked to the ambulance after being treated by a staff member and former Navy corpsman, the statement says.
Winkler's mother, Pamela McPeak, said an instructor told her in the hospital after her son was injured that he saved Winkler's life by pulling two other instructors off Winkler when they continued to beat him while he was unconscious.
According to McPeak, her son was singled out by several of the training officers.
"For anyone to speculate what caused his adverse medical condition would be simply that, speculation," Pack's statement reads. "However, the existence of clear and convincing medical evidence that this condition was a direct result of training, rather than a possible pre-existing condition, has not been produced."
Medical documents provided to the Gazette by the Winkler family on Tuesday show a diagram of Winkler's injuries to the neck. The "Emergency Physician Record" from Thomas Memorial Hospital states that Winkler received a head injury during training at the police academy.
The "context" on the form is listed as "direct blow," the severity as "moderate" and the associated symptoms as "lost consciousness."
McPeak tried to attend Tuesday's news conference, but was not allowed into the secure area of State Police headquarters. State Police officials talked to her and gave her a copy of Pack's statement.
She discussed her son's situation with reporters after the news conference outside State Police headquarters.