James McCleese

OTTAWA — At least two law enforcement officers and a man were injured after a scuffle ensued when the transport of a suspect turned violent.

After the Boone County Sheriff’s Office and West Virginia State Police worked together to secure what a deputy called a “potential hostage situation,” officers attempted to transport a suspect to jail. During that transport, officers say, the suspect attempted to take a service weapon from a deputy.

Just before midnight on Tuesday, June 23, police say, deputies traveled to arrest James McCleese, 46, on charges of felony kidnapping and possession of a firearm related to an incident that occurred on June 22.

On that day, police say via a criminal complaint, they believe McCleese held a woman hostage at gunpoint and also stole a .22-caliber handgun from the woman’s residence. The report states the woman claimed she was driven around in a car, including a trip to Milton, West Virginia, in Cabell County, “for some reason.”

On Tuesday night, after police arrived at a mobile home on Spring Street in Ottawa, McCleese barricaded himself inside the structure and claimed to be holding a woman hostage, according to the report.

Deputies said he told them he would shoot the woman if they came any closer. During the standoff, the suspect threatened to harm himself. Deputies say McCleese showed them a weapon at one point during the standoff, but no shots were fired.

The West Virginia State Police SWAT Team was called to the scene for assistance.

At 4:40 a.m., McCleese surrendered; however, during his transport to jail, he allegedly attacked a deputy in the cruiser and a struggle ensued, according to the report.

At some point during the transport, officers say, the suspect escaped custody and tried to invade a residence in the area of Turtle Creek, where the occupants fought him off and a confrontation occurred before he was apprehended by law enforcement again.

The Boone County Sheriff’s Office addressed the incident in a news release.

“After McCleese was processed at the Sheriff’s Office, he was transported to the regional jail,” the release stated. “During the transport, while in the Turtle Creek area, the suspect made an escape attempt. He was able to move the handcuffs from behind him at which time he came across the seat and attacked the transporting deputy. A struggle ensued as the inmate entered the driver’s compartment and attempted to take the deputy’s firearm. During the struggle for the handgun, the officer was able to access and use a knife that he carries as a back-up weapon to defend himself.”

At least two officers and McCleese received treatment at a hospital for their injuries and bodily fluid exposure in the incident. One of the deputies received stitches from his injuries.

The press release also stated, “The young officer involved in this senseless incident is dedicated to the job, has a spotless record and is one of the best to wear the uniform. We are proud of him and we stand behind his actions 100% and hope he makes a full recovery to continue serving the citizens of Boone County. We are fortunate to have him with us.”

McCleese, a felon from previous cases, was charged with kidnapping and prohibited persons with a firearm and held at Southwestern Regional Jail on a $500,000 bond.

The West Virginia State Police are investigating.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@

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