DUNBAR, WV (WOWK) — Three days after investigators announced they would not charge a Dunbar police officer for the death of a suspect in his custody, 13 News has obtained body camera footage and police reports that shed light on the incident.
Video shows Officer Zachary Winters attempting to restrain Michael Scott Jr., 34, around 12:49 a.m., July 22, 2022. Moments later, Scott is on the ground, bleeding from his head.
After arresting Scott, Winters and Officer Adam Mason took him to the Dunbar Police Department, where the video shows him conscious and bloodied around 12:55 a.m. Minutes later, the video shows medics examining Scott.
WARNING: These videos contain graphic content and explicit language
Bodycam footage of Zachary Winters, Dunbar Police Officer:
In the video, the medics ask Scott if he wants to go to the hospital and he replies he thinks he does. Winters then leaves the booking room and his bodycam video stops. When he returns, roughly an hour later, Scott is still in the booking area.
Around 2:15 a.m., Winters takes Scott to the South Central Regional Jail where correctional officers refused to accept him due to visible injuries to the head.
Dunbar Police Department booking area / South Central Regional Jail footage:
The South Central Regional Jail (SCRJ) incident reports outline what happened once Winters arrived at the jail with Scott:
“While I’m at the booking computer, I hear the Dunbar police officer say ‘I had EMS come to the station and Inmate Scott refused treatment.’ The Dunbar police officer states I have a commit on him. I also hear the Dunbar police officer say ‘I suplexed him.’ I hear someone say
that there is a lot of blood coming from his ear. The Dunbar police officer said ‘he fell on his earring.’,” said one correctional officer.
Another incident report described Scott’s injuries that prevented him from being cleared to enter the facility, despite Winters refusing to take him to the hospital:
“I held inmate up while he was going through the body scanner and as myself and … were escorting him back to the counter the inmate then dropped completely to the floor, we stood the inmate back up and placed him at the counter and his nose began to bleed,” said a SCRJ booking officer.
A registered nurse at SCRJ described Scott as “lethargic” and having an “obvious altered level of consciousness.” The nurse also noted in their incident report that Scott had blood coming from his left ear as they were attempting to book him.
Eventually, Winters left the jail around 3 a.m., leaving Scott behind. Correctional officers took Scott to CAMC General Hospital and arrived around 3:30 a.m. Scott was placed on a ventilator minutes later and underwent brain surgery at 4:22 a.m.
Scott died two days later from what the medical examiner called “blunt force injuries to the head.”
A letter to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office from the Prosecutor’s Office dated May 30, 2023, states their decision to not file criminal charges against Winters:
“The autopsy report concludes that the death of Mr. Scott was a homicide, in that it resulted from physical force used by Officer Winters when placing Mr. Scott in custody. However, the lack of any evidence showing how the injury was inflicted, and the clearing of Mr. Scott by Kanawha County paramedics prior to his transport to the jail, do not support the filing of criminal charges.”
Dunbar Police Chief Brian Oxley has not commented on the incident, citing a pending lawsuit filed by Scott’s family. Efforts to reach Winters and Mason have not been successful.