McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

December 28, 2013

McAlester Police officer breaks woman's leg

McALESTER — A former McAlester police officer who allegedly broke the leg of a handcuffed woman using a “karate move” was not justified in the use of force, according to a police report.

McAlester officer Dillin Munholland used a “leg sweep and hip toss” maneuver on Kelli Fender, 20, after she allegedly “locked up her legs,” during an arrest in front of her home, according to a McAlester Police Department incident report.

On Friday, McAlester Police Chief Gary Wansick said Munholland resigned in early December.

The “hip toss” maneuver is not a familiar one, according to a statement by MPD Sgt. Richard Parker include in an MPD Use of Force report.

“Officer Munholland used what he called a ‘Leg Sweep and Hip Toss,’” Parker stated in the use of force report.

“I’m not familiar with the teaching of ‘Hip Toss’ in the basic academy in which all officers must attend or the equivalent of the academy, COPS program,” Parker stated.

The incident happened approximately 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 13, according to an arrest report.

Fender is alleged to have “waved” at Munholland and to have continued driving less than a mile to her home after Munholland turned on his lights and siren in an attempt to pull her over, according to the arrest report.

Munholland radioed fellow officers that (Fender) was not stopping, according to the arrest report.

After Fender pulled into the driveway of her home, Munholland said he ordered Fender “out of the truck at gunpoint on to the ground.”

Munholland stated Officer Kirk Johnston arrived and handcuffed Fender, according to the arrest report.

Parker stated in the Use of Force report that Fender and Munholland were “only going about 35 miles per hour” until arriving at Fender’s home where the arrest was made.

After arriving, Parker said he saw Fender handcuffed and lying on the ground next to a truck, according to the Use of Force report.

“It did not appear that Munholland was having any problems with (Fender),” Parker stated in the Use of Force report.

Parker states that he heard a noise and then turned around and Munholland had Fender pinned up against the side of his patrol car and she was “very upset and cussing,” according to the Use of Force report.

Meanwhile, Munholland stated in an arrest report that while attempting to take the handcuffed woman to another police car, Fender “ locked up her legs” and then he took Fender to the ground using a “Leg Sweep” and a “Hip Toss” maneuver.

Fender then began screaming that her leg was broken, the arrest report states.

According to Fender’s attorney, Jeremy Beaver, Fender suffered two broken bones in her leg just below the knee. He said the fractures were surgically repaired with metal plates and wiring and may require more surgery.

“Kelli is 5-5, 120 pounds and is 20 years old,” Beaver said.

“The distance from where Officer Munholland began following Kelli and where she stopped in front of her home is less than one-third of a mile and she was traveling at 35-40 mph.

“This was not a high speed pursuit. In fact, at one point Kelli waved at Officer Munholland with her left arm to signal him to go around her; she was not running from him. She believed he was trying to pass her, not pull her over.

“There was absolutely no reason for him to treat her as a fleeing suspect and certainly no justification for pointing his gun at her and I don’t blame Kelli for being angry about it.

“There was simply no excuse for what Munholland did.”

Fender has filed a $1 million federal lawsuit against Munholland and the McAlester Police Department.

It is the second lawsuit filed in less than two years involving a McAlester police officer and a handcuffed woman.

Last year, McAlester police officer Sterling Taylor was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and was sued for $2 million after a video surveillance tape recorded him firing his taser at point-blank range at a handcuffed woman inside the Pittsburg County Jail.

The lawsuit was later settled for an disclosed amount and assault charges filed against Taylor were dropped.

Taylor has since resumed his duties at MPD.

Fender’s lawsuit, filed in November against Munholland and the City of McAlester, alleges Munholland described his use of force on the woman as “some kind of Ninja move.”

The seizure was “unreasonable and the force used excessive wrongful and unconscionable,” the lawsuit states.

On Friday, Chief Wansick declined to say if Munholland will receive retirement or other benefits.

“Our attorneys have asked me not to comment on this case,” he said.

After the incident, Fender was released on her on recognizance. She  pleaded not guilty on Dec. 17 to charges of attempting to elude and police officer, obstructing an officer, driving under the influence while under 21 and failure to carry insurance verification.

She is set to appear in Pittsburg County District Court on the charges Feb. 4.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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