You Are Not Innocent Until Proven Guilty in Moundsville, WV

UPDATE:

Thank you all for your help in the call flood to the Moundsville Police Department, Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, and the Prosecutor’s office. MPD has taken down the picture of Mr. Dempsey from their Facebook page.

I am going to ask everyone to cease the call flood at this time. I am doubtful that any apology is going to be made by MDP. I’m sure they got the message from those of you calling and asking for the charges to be dropped. That is going to take some time as there are some things that need to be done involving doctors and such that I will not get into. There are steps that have to be followed and we need to step back and let these steps take place.

I thank you again for helping this man and his family out, but I believe we need to give the prosecutor some space to do the right thing. Many from the local community also took part in the call to action. I believe that the prosecutor knows that he will not get a conviction in this case based on the flimsy criminal complaint.

Those with children will do anything to keep them safe.  When a stranger is driving around the neighborhood where there are lots of children, people get understandably worried.  So of course concerned citizens call the police to check things out.  I personally do not see anything wrong with that.  In the story below, it’s what took place once police arrived on the scene and them placing the suspect in danger that I have the problem with.

Original story:

According to a criminal complaint filed by Marshall County Deputy Douglas R. Sayman, the Sheriff Department received a call about a suspicious male driving a white van in a neighborhood that was supposedly following children and trying to pick them up.  The call was received at 1530 hours.  The caller reported that she was following the van to give police direction on his location.  Deputy Sayman was enroute to Moundsville and called for back up from Moundsville Police.  The Moundsville Chief was first on the scene.  Sayman reported that the driver was not complying with orders for his identification.  Sayman then said that he activated his dash cam.  Sayman next stated that the driver kept putting one hand down out of view, so they ordered him out of the vehicle for officer safety.  He refused, so he was removed from the vehicle and placed into cuffs.

Screen shots of the full incident in the criminal complaint will be posted at the bottom of this story.

I have no problem with with anything in this complaint as it stands.  I have not gotten ahold of the dash cam footage as of yet to compare his words to his actions.  What took place after taking him in to custody is where I have a problem.  He was made to sit in the grass of a yard while they stood above him taking a low angle picture of the suspect and uploading it to the Facebook page for the Moundsville Police Department.  Keep in mind that this suspect had yet to be charged and booked before the picture was posted.  Below is the picture and the caption that accompanied it.

moundsville pd

Shortly after the department released this picture, the comment section began filling up with many who were calling for this guy’s death.  Several comments even provided wrong identifying information about who this guy was.  Those commenting were giving different names and where these people lived so that people could take matters into their own hands.  People were coming out of the woodwork saying that this guy had also been in their neighborhood trying to pick kids up.

Below are two screen grabs to just give you a taste of what was being said in the comments below the original picture uploaded by the Moundsville Police Department.

vigilante 1vigilante 2

At the time of posting the picture of the suspect, no investigation had been conducted to see if he had indeed done anything that resembled what he was being accused of.  Because of the nature of the alleged crime, people’s emotions are going to run high.  The Ohio Valley has a sizable population of registered sex offenders.  As a matter of fact, Moundsville Police even saw one of their own officers recently indicted for having sex with an underage girl.  (Moundsville Cop Indicted)

This man was not afforded the benefit of due process of the law and was immediately presumed guilty by the public due to the reckless actions of the Moundsville Police Department.  I already know that they will try to defend their actions by saying that due to the nature of the complaint that they needed to get the information out to the citizens to find out if there had been any other alleged victims.  The problem is that they included that he was arrested for stalking children.  Their own wording gave readers the impression that this man was guilty.  The reason for the arrest was one that would have undoubtedly provoked a high emotional response from the general public.  I will state for the record that I am not accusing these officers of being vindictive in their actions.  I do not believe that they purposely put this man’s life in danger.  What I will stand by is that I believe that their actions were both negligent and reckless and they simply screwed up.

A simple wording of, “Please contact the Moundsville Police if you or your children have had any contact with this man.” or anything to that effect would have been better than what they had posted with the picture.  To the officers that read this page, how many times has your department posted something asking for the public’s help only to be flooded with mountains of false information?  Be honest with yourselves and the public, as you know that it happens everyday.

Later that night, WTRF TV7 out of Wheeling ran a story about the arrest and also included the story on their Facebook page.  The comments on their page were just as sickening as the ones on the MPD Facebook page.  As of the writing of this story, the threats have been left up on both pages.

I was contacted by two of the relatives of the suspect the following day after more information had come out about what had really taken place the day of his arrest.  It turns out that Mr. Dempsey has dementia and early stage Alzheimers.  He was in the neighborhood of Maxwell Acres in Moundsville looking for a house to buy for his deceased mother.  In the complaint, there is mention of when he was behind some kids on their bikes he was heard yelling, “Ride, ride, ride.”  It turns out that they were blocking him and ride, ride, ride was meant for them to get out of the way.  At no time did this man try to pick up little kids.  He’s simply a confused old man with a serious medical condition and was not a threat to anyone.

In all fairness to Deputy Sayman and the Moundsville Chief, they were not aware of this right away.  But had they done a little more digging prior to posting his picture online, they would have gotten that information.

One relative told me that he was not afforded the opportunity to make a phone call.  When his daughter came to pick him up, he was confused as to who she was.  These relatives went on to tell me that they are not upset with the investigation.  They are glad that they responded quickly due to the nature of the call.  They share the same issue that I have with them plastering him all over social media before any facts had been gathered.

The family is now worried about the safety of him and his daughter after the number of death threats that were posted on Facebook and still remain to this day.  Most of the family is no longer local and they are now working to get them both moved from the area before something terrible happens to them.  This man has lived in his community his whole life and will now have to leave a place that he has called his home for his safety.

Anytime there is a threat to the safety of children or other innocents, I would want the threat to be investigated quickly and thoroughly.  MPD and MCSO definitely responded quickly.  We all want to live in safety and not have to worry about becoming victims of the bad element that is out there.  We also want to be treated fairly by those that have taken the job of the police to investigate fairly and impartially to ensure that justice takes place.  Justice is not what took place here.  This was turned into a modern day witch hunt where an innocent man has now become the victim of terroristic threats made against him.

Even though it has been discovered that Mr. Dempsey never tried to harm any of these children, his charges have yet to be dropped.  I am asking you all to contact the agencies listed below and demand that this man’s name be cleared and that all charges be dropped.  Be sure to share your disapproval of how they put this man in danger by posting his picture on the internet before any facts had been gathered.  Demand that they investigate all threats that were posted on both the MPD Facebook page as well as the ones posted on the WTRF Facebook page.  Be relentless, but professional.  These departments screwed up and they will do anything to sweep this under the rug rather than take responsibility for their reckless actions.  Melt the phone lines and fill up the e-mail.  Do not let them rest until they make things as right as is in their control.

Please keep Mr. Dempsey and his family in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to deal with these unfortunate events that have taken place.  Dealing with an illness such as the one that Mr. Dempsey is hard enough without the added issues that they now face.  Imagine discovering a loved one being placed in this situation and finding out about it by signing onto Facebook.

When someone is accused of a crime that is sexual in nature, especially when children are involved, that accusation sticks with them for the rest of their lives even once found that they were not guilty.  Nothing will ever be the same for this man and his family.  This man and his family deserve a very public apology by all involved.

Criminal Complaint by Deputy Sayman

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