A woman whose arrest by the town’s police chief caused a stir when a video of it was posted online said she will continue to fight for justice, even though there are no charges pending against her.
At an appeals hearing Friday, Le Flore County District Judge Danita Williams dismissed a ticket and vacated the judgment of a Wister municipal judge, who found Brenda Martin, 51, guilty of resisting arrest by then-Police Chief Chris Ford.
Wister is a town of about 1,000 residents southwest of Poteau in Le Flore County.
“The court made the right decision,” Martin said. “I feel like it was the first step toward justice.”
State law requires tickets and citations to include specific facts supporting the criminal charge. In this case, the ordinance allegedly violated wasn’t properly written on the ticket, said Martin’s attorney, Jeff Mixon.
“It was a defective ticket and didn’t cite the original issue,” Mixon said.
Mixon said there is no such ordinance in the town for “resisting arrest” as it was cited on the ticket. While it is a crime to use force or violence against an officer, it isn’t referred to as “resisting arrest.”
Mixon downplayed the idea the case was won on a technicality.
“The evidence would have shown she wasn’t guilty,” he said.
Martin has maintained she went to town hall to lodge a complaint about how the police force was handling an investigation into the death of one of her friend’s sons.
“The chief was in a bad mood when I walked into that office, and he took it out on me,” Martin said.
This latest decision means all of the complaints against Martin that arose during her July 13 visit to town hall have been dismissed.
A municipal court judge in October dismissed a profanity charge against Martin.
“She used barnyard language while she was there, but that’s not profanity,” Mixon said.
State law describes profanity as swearing that uses the name of God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost to curse a person.
Martin said Monday she filed a complaint with acting Police Chief Randy Liles to initiate an investigation into whether Ford acted violently when he arrested her in July.
Video surveillance of the arrest was posted online shortly after the incident. Numerous blogs have discussed the incident and whether it constitutes police brutality or excessive force.
Martin has said she was brutally handled that day. She said her eye was blackened and her ribs and other body parts bruised. Doctor’s checkups totaled about $1,500, she said.
“Police are there to serve and protect,” she said.
“That’s not what happened.”
A police report written by Ford notes Martin’s offense as “disorderly conduct.”
In his written narrative of the incident, Ford states he didn’t include that charge on the ticket because Martin was complaining of an injury.
According to the incident report, Martin was in Ford’s office cursing loudly. After asking her to leave several times, Ford walked to her and grabbed her elbow to escort her from the building.
“She pulled it away from me and turned to face me,” Ford wrote in the report. “I pushed Martin to get some space and told her that she was now under arrest.”
Ford describes Martin “resisting” until he swept her legs from beneath her and held her to the ground.
Ford has said he’s been trained on how to subdue prisoners and that he was following protocol. He has apologized for hurting Martin.
“I’m not perfect by any means,” Ford said in October. “I think this is just simply the fact of doing a difficult job.”
Town Administrator Linston Chronister said Ford left his post as police chief to take college classes. Ford told town officials of his plan to scale back his hours before the incident with Martin.
Ford hasn’t drawn a check from the town since October, Chronister said.
“I still stand behind what Ford did and say he did a correct job,” Chronister said.
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