Over the course of a nine-month shooting investigation, the Summers County Grand Jury returned a three-count indictment on Monday, July 23, against Alderson Mayor Travis Copenhaver, Lloyd W. Lightner, Jr., Timothy Smith and Shannon Earhart for conspiracy, giving false information to the department of public safety (State Police), and obstructing an officer.
All four men entered not guilty pleas to these charges.
These charges are only accusations, and all named individuals are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
All three charges are misdemeanor crimes, which are alleged to have arisen during the course of an investigation of a shooting that occurred on the night of Oct. 27, 2017 on Eagle Branch Road in Alderson at the Tolliver residence. According to state police, Frederick D. Tolliver, 66, fired shots at an ATV that was carrying five people who were riding around in the area, and were using Tolliver’s driveway to turn around when Tolliver shot at them. The five people included Copenhaver, Lightner, Smith, Earhart and off-duty officer Macaden Brackenrich. Brackenrich was critically injured by the gunfire and is paralyzed as a result of his injuries. Two other individuals sustained lesser injuries as a result of this incident.
Tolliver was arrested and charged with five counts of attempted murder, but when the evidence was presented to the grand jury on Tuesday, July 17, they did not return an indictment from any crime arising from this incident.
The grand jury is an independent court of inquiry, and its decision is not subject to review.
A run in earlier in the evening may have been tied to the incident, according to Senior Trooper Nicholas Boothe.
“Earlier in the evening there had been some sort of altercation between the elderly man and some of those involved with the ATV, and somebody threw a beer bottle at a truck,” Boothe explained. “But other than that, there were no physical threats of physical violence made from anyone toward either party.”
The three counts listed in the indictment would be violations if the defendants are convicted; giving false information to a member of the department of public safety can carry a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $200, imprisonment in the county jail of not more than sixty days, or both fined and imprisoned. Obstructing an officer can carry a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $500, confinement in jail not more than one year, or both fined and confined; and conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor can carry confinement in the county jail for not more than one year or a fine of not more than $1,000, or in the discretion of the court, by both such confinement and fine.
According to WVNSTV.com, Copenhaver’s constituents have mixed reactions with his indictments.
“They’re supposed to be outstanding citizens who strive to do for the community the best they can,” said Alderson resident Art Nottingham. “When something like that comes up, it just kind of muddies up the waters. [City council] should analyze the whole thing and do the right thing about that,” Nottingham said.
“Whatever happened in his personal life that night has nothing to do with what he’s doing for the town today,” said Nanette Mann, who also lives in Alderson.
Copenhaver and the Alderson City Attorney could not be reached. Alderson City Hall also declined to comment.