McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

November 22, 2013

Lawsuit: Officer engaged in karate move on handcuffed woman

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — A million dollar federal lawsuit filed against a McAlester police officer alleges the officer engaged in a “karate move” on a handcuffed woman that broke her leg.

This 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 sued for $2 million after a video surveillance tape recorded him firing his Tazer at point-blank range at a handcuffed woman inside the Pittsburg County Jail.

Taylor has since resumed his duties at the McAlester Police Department. The lawsuit was later settled for an undisclosed amount and the charges against Taylor were dropped.

Meanwhile, in a lawsuit filed this week by McAlester resident Kelli Fender in the United States District Court  for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, McAlester Police Office Dillon Munholland and the City of McAlester are being sued for $1 million.

The suit alleges that Munholland described his use of force on the owman as “some kind of ninja move.”

The case is still under investigation according to McAlester Police Chief Gary Wansick.

“I can’t comment on the lawsuit at this time; we are investigating this case,” Wansick said.

According to the lawsuit, Munholland cuffed Fender’s hands behind her back after she was arrested on Sept. 13 for alleged misdemeanor driving violations.

The lawsuit states that after the arrest Fender was walked to the police car by Munholland, when “unexpectedly and without warning” the officer “forcefully” placed his leg across Fender’s lower body and threw her to the ground face first with her hands cuffed behind her.

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

The lawsuit describes Fender as being five-feet tall and weighing 120 pounds and Munholland as weighing some 100 pounds “heavier” than Fender.

Meanwhile Fender’s attorney Jeremy Beaver said force used by Munholland is unimaginable .

“It is hard to imagine a scenario where this kind of brute force against a defenseless young woman is acceptable,” Beaver said.

“This is the second case in less than two years involving a McAlester police officer hurting a handcuffed young female. The last one resulted in felony charges being filed against the office I don’t know what will happen here but it’s our position that Kelli Fender is a victim.” 

“I can only assume that Officer Munholland thought he was being funny when he described breaking Kelli’s leg as a “ninja karate move”. That leg is now held together with screws and plates. She may never fully recover and she’s only twenty years old. There’s nothing funny about it.”

“There are some really good officers at the McAlester police department. I know many of them personally and it would be a shame for these cases to reflect poorly on all of them. I hope that doesn’t happen.”

On Friday Officer Munholland said he could not comment on the case at this time.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com