Charleston Police Officer Stephen Doss Indicted in Fatal Crash

A Charleston police officer has been indicted on three misdemeanor charges after he allegedly caused a deadly crash earlier this year.

Officer Stephen Doss, of the Charleston Police Department, reportedly crashed into a woman’s car in the 400 block of Washington Street West, near the intersection of Maryland Avenue, on Jan. 4.

The woman, Dora Clarke, died as a result of Doss’ “reckless disregard for the safety of others,” the indictment states. Clarke died five days after the incident. Police have refused to release her identity, but she was named in the indictment against Doss. She was 80 years old, according to her obituary.

Doss, 27, was driving 74 miles an hour as he responded to reports of a man armed with a knife at the Orchard Manor housing complex, according to the indictment. The speed limit in the area where the crash occurred is 30 mph.

Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster has said it appears Doss was speeding without using his emergency lights or siren, which goes against department policy and state law.

The department has said the officer was driving in the left lane of Washington Street West which is a one-way, two-lane road.

Doss was indicted Thursday by a Kanawha County grand jury on charges of negligent homicide, speeding and an emergency vehicle violation. All three are misdemeanors. The negligent homicide charge carries a maximum of one year in prison.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 7 by Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster — who is the police chief’s sister.

Brent Webster, who is leaving the police chief’s job, would not comment Friday on Doss’ indictment or his current status with the department. City Attorney Paul Ellis, who said in March that Doss would remain on paid leave until an investigation was complete, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

In a past interview, Webster had said officers sometimes are allowed to do things such as speed or drive through red lights if they receive permission from a supervisor. Their lights and siren are still required.

Some emergencies justify speeding, he said. However, officers still must drive with “due regard for the safety of all persons,” according to policy.

Webster previously said emergency vehicles must take precautions, such as slowing down in populated areas.

“We don’t want emergency driving to be an afterthought,” the chief said. “We don’t want it to be something that we just go out there and do because we have a police car.”

Department policy allows an officer to activate his or her lights and siren without permission if no supervisor is available.

The officer is required to ask for permission when possible, and a supervisor can then decide whether to let the emergency response continue.

Such policies allow for officers to address urgent calls, such as robberies, car wrecks or shootings.

Doss is the second Charleston police officer involved in a fatal collision in the past 12 years.

On Oct. 14, 2005, Patrolman Brandon Tagayun crashed into a woman at the intersection of MacCorkle Avenue and 46th Street. Patsy Sizemore, 69, died at the scene.

Tagayun’s supervisor at the time, then-Cpl. Teddie Malone, joined Tagayun while he, too, failed to activate his lights and siren.

Authorities suspended the supervisor without pay for 160 hours, and they reduced his rank and salary for 640 hours.

Tagayun later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for speeding and failing to use his emergency lights and siren. He received one year probation after officials dropped a charge of negligent homicide.

He resigned in 2006 and joined the St. Albans Police Department as a patrolman in 2008. That agency promoted him to sergeant in 2016.

West Virginia State Police and other outside agencies investigated Tagayun’s fatal crash. They estimated his speed at somewhere between 60 and 80 mph.

No outside investigation is needed in the most recent case, Ellis previously has said, because details are readily available.

Investigators recovered a “black box” and in-car video from Doss’ cruiser, so his speed is known. And, unlike the Tagayun case, the supervisor for Doss’ zone was not present for the crash.