"Those are some serious allegations, and we are looking into it very closely," said Matt Turner, a spokesman for Gov. Joe Manchin. "The governor will follow up on this, and we will make some inquiries. . . . Any time someone alleges something like this, there are concerns, but at the same time, the State Police [is] a very professional organization."
'The most horrible thing'
Winkler said students in his basic class knew that the baton training was coming, and that it was rough, from the beginning.
"That's what we were told from the other classes," Winkler said. "They told us what to expect."
The instructors downplayed the baton training, he said.
"They said they wanted to see a lot of aggression out of us," Winkler said. "I definitely had a lot of aggression until I was unconscious."
McPeak said she knew that was a big day for the students from talking to the mothers of others who had gone through the training.
"That was the last chance they [the instructors] had to rough them up," she said. "I knew Christopher was going to have to go through that. I could not go to work that day. I'd heard from other mothers this was the most horrible thing."
McPeak alleged that at least two basic students from the Princeton Police had gotten concussions from the training in the past.
"After that, [the training] gets easy," she said. "Usually, if they make it through that point, they make it through the class."
McPeak has some understanding of military-style training. She retired from the U.S. Army Reserve in 1996, after serving for 21 years, six of those on active duty.
McPeak said Winkler's fellow cadets liked her son, but that some of the instructors did not.
"He doesn't drink, do drugs, smoke, curse. He served as a Christian missionary for six months. That's how I see him; that's how most people see him," she said, when questioned why she believes her son was singled out. "He was not their alpha-male prototype. He was not the good ol' boy. He wasn't a part of their morals, their values."
Winkler said he believes the State Police trainers were rougher in general on the basic students, who are there to get certified for city and county departments, than they are on their own cadets.
"State Police cadets didn't get it nearly as bad, because they watch out for their own," Winkler said. "The city and county officers are nothing to them. We just get in the way."
'Something I always wanted to do'
When Winkler was 6, McPeak said, she had to buy him four pairs of blue pants and four blue shirts so he could dress like a police officer every day.
"That's what he thought a police officer wore," she said, "and that's all he would wear."
"It's just what I've always wanted to do," Winkler added.
McPeak said academy officials originally said Winkler could walk with his class in their graduation ceremony Friday, then later said he could not.
"Their policy is: If we physically attack you and injure you through our own gross negligence, then you can't graduate," alleged James McPeak, Winkler's step-father.
Foreman said Winkler would graduate after he finished the classes he missed because of the injury. He said he was not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony because he hasn't graduated.
"If he is able to come back to the academy and take the classes he missed, he will receive his certification, and we want him to do that," Foreman said. "We want to see him succeed and be successful. This guy is on our team. He is a policeman, and we want people to become certified."
James McPeak served in the Army and the Reserve for a combined 36 years, including stints as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm. He said the family is concerned that academy officials won't let Winkler graduate even when he completes his classes because they have talked to the press.
"On the day he was going to graduate from the State Police Academy, he is going to Huntington to see a neurologist," James McPeak said. "I spent a lot of that [Army] time training people. What they do is not training. What they do is to satisfy their own sadistic urges and feed their own egos. There is no training benefit to kicking an unconscious cadet."
Pamela McPeak sent e-mails to multiple state officials, including Manchin.
Raamie Barker, chief of staff for West Virginia Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, D-Logan, said he responded to a message sent by Pamela McPeak to Tomblin's Facebook page.
Barker said he gave her some practical advice about dealing with such situations.
Barker said he wrote: "I advise that taking any action prior to his graduation or being activated might result in a negative outcome, undoing any gains made since you initially contacted me."
"I simply gave her some practical advice, that if you go out and file complaints, then these people just shut up," Barker said. "You don't do anything until you got all your ducks in a row."
Winkler is a semester away from completing his degree in forensics from Mountain State University. He believes he will complete his final classes in the fall.
Winkler said he just wants to finish his training and continue working as a Princeton police officer.
"The State Police cadets had gone through training two weeks before," Winkler said. "None of them left in an ambulance."
Reach Gary Harki at gha...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.