A lawsuit has been filed by a black man accusing a pair of white Montgomery police officers of race-based police brutality, according to court documents.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Kanawha County Circuit Court by Roderick White, names the city itself and officers Matthew Leavitt and Shawn Hutchinson as defendants. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages for alleged injuries received by White and requests a jury trial.

Hutchinson’s employment with the police department was terminated Sept. 27 following a similar alleged episode involving another claimant, and Leavitt was placed on paid administrative leave the same day for the same reason. The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department is investigating that purported incident.

According to White, Hutchinson and Leavitt came to his residence in response to a 911 call on Sept. 29, 2007. White was said to be the victim of an assault, according to the call. Leavitt purportedly grabbed White by the arm and jumped on his back.

When Leavitt and White fell to the ground, Leavitt told Hutchinson to use a chemical agent on White and used racial slurs, the complaint states.

Later, at the Montgomery police station, White claims he was “subjected to physical, verbal and emotional battery” by the officers, including being thrown down the stairs and punched in his right side by Leavitt — all while White was handcuffed and his pants were around his knees, the suit alleges.

White maintains he sustained physical, mental and emotional damages, incurred medical expenses, suffered embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance, inconvenience and deprivation of liberty. He adds the city “failed to exercise reasonable care in the hiring, retention and/or supervision” of its employees.

The alleged actions of Hutchinson and Leavitt, White argued, “were outrageous ... reprehensible, fraudulent, willful and wanton, malicious and in blatant and intentional disregard” of White’s rights. White insisted the officers’ alleged misdeeds constituted “hate crimes.”

White is being represented by Charleston lawyers Mike Clifford, Ed Rebrook and Martin R. Smith Jr.

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Twan Reynolds and his wife Lauren, both of Beards Fork, accused Hutchinson and Leavitt of repeatedly hitting Twan Reynolds over the head with a blackjack, kicking him in the back and spraying his eyes with mace on Sept. 26 of this year.

They also say Leavitt repeatedly used a racial epithet against Reynolds, and Lauren Reynolds claimed Leavitt licked her neck during an interrogation and made derogatory comments. The officers and Lauren Reynolds are white.

Montgomery Mayor Jim Higgins said he fired Hutchinson for insubordination. Higgins said he would decide later about Leavitt, who also faces an insubordination charge. Leavitt denied he did anything improper.

— E-mail: mhill@register-herald.com

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