W.Va. Troopers Endorse House of Delegates Candidate With Restraining Order For Stalking
The president of the West Virginia Troopers Association, John W. Smith Jr., says he did not know that a candidate his organization decided to endorse this year has an active restraining order against him.
Derrick Evans, a Republican frontrunner for the House of Delegates in 19th District, was found by a Kanawha County magistrate last year to have engaged in “stalking” and made “repeated credible threats of bodily injury” to a woman who worked at the Women’s Health Center in Charleston, W.Va. It is the state’s only facility to offer abortion services. Nine days after he was served, Evans violated that restraining order leading to an extension that does not expire until Dec. 31, 2020.
Evans rose to local notoriety last year by livestreaming himself outside the Women’s Health Center on social media. In a series of videos still available on the candidate’s Facebook page, Evans documented himself divulging personal details about women who work at the center to his followers and yelling things at patients walking into the facility that are so graphic in nature, they aren’t suitable for publication.
In one of these videos from February of last year, Evans approached a row of four women sitting at the edge of the clinic’s blacktop parking lot. He addressed one of them using her full name multiple times on the livestream. “You don’t have to cover your face,” he taunted. “Everybody’s already -- 50,000 people’s already seen what you look like. It’s no big deal.” Filming the side of her face and standing about a foot away from her, Evans announced on his video that he knows she’s “already had two abortions.”
Jamie Miller was one of the women who was singled out by Evans while working at the Center. Miller said that Evans would mention specific details about her personal life as she was being watched by Evans or any one of his followers. “He would say things about, you know, how's your daughter doing today, Jamie? How's your son?”
In addition to concerns about being stalked, the presence of visibly armed demonstrators showing up to protest her doing her job led to what she described as a feeling of “being tormented for six months.”
“It was just extremely, extremely scary, because, you know, you're trying to walk a patient from their car to the clinic, which is probably, I don't know, I'm gonna say 12 feet?” she said. “It's not a very big distance. But yet, you're having to do this in front of men who are staring you down with giant weapons on their side. It's probably the most scared I've ever been.”
Miller hired an attorney and took her concerns to Kanawha County Magistrate Joseph L. Shelton to request a type of restraining order known as a Personal Safety Order. Miller said in court that Evans tried to submit screenshots that showed comments from Miller’s children’s Facebook accounts as evidence.
“And that’s when the judge stopped the hearing and said no more,” Miller recalled.
Miller said Shelton admonished Evans about harassing someone at their place of work and granted the restraining order.
Evans did not reply to multiple requests for this story.
Court documents, provided by Miller’s attorney, show Shelton granted the order, saying Evans made “credible threats” and “engaged in stalking” as defined by the West Virginia State Code. Evans was ordered by the courts to stay away from Miller, including her place of work. But, nine days after being served, Evans showed back up at the Women’s Health Center. When Charleston Police officers responded to a call that Evans was violating a restraining order by being at the center, he gave them false information about the court order.
“There’s not one,” Evans said in a live-streamed video. “It went to court in front of Magistrate Shelton. I could be wrong. What he did was he threw it out and basically said we both have a personal protection order against each other cause he saw right through it and said it was BS–for 90 days. There’s no footage or anything like that, just not to engage or say anything to her, specifically her to me. But yeah, there’s not a restraining order.”
Miller said when she found out that the West Virginia Troopers Association had endorsed someone who had violated a restraining order she has against him, she was shocked.
“I mean, it's just, it makes me sick. I don't know, I felt just blank,” she said. “I was furious. And I didn't even know what to do or say or who to reach out to. And I wanted to just scream because if this is who our troopers are endorsing, nobody in our state is going to be safe.”
She said she relies on the courts and the police to protect her. But, the Troopers Association’s endorsement makes her fear for her safety.
“Am I not supposed to be able to trust the police now? Are they not going to have my back if something goes on and something happens to me?” she said. “Because you're endorsing somebody who hurts people. You know, I’m about to cry because it doesn’t make any sense.”
The WVTA President John W. Smith Jr. told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that his organization was not aware that Evans has an active restraining order against him. When asked if he knew about the order against Evans, Smith requested details from WVPB surrounding the restraining order and said his organization will discuss whether or not to rescind the endorsement at their next board meeting. Smith, however, was unable to provide a date for when exactly that meeting would take place. WVPB reached out to the Troopers Association a second time to find out if Evans’ restraining order had been discussed by members. Smith said his organization had not yet met and officers had been very busy with criminal investigations.