Woman knocked unconscious sues former Dallas County officer

Print
Email
|

by MARJORIE OWENS and STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on May 15, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 15 at 4:39 PM

DALLAS - A Dallas woman arrested in July of 2011 on a driving while intoxicated charge filed a $75,000 lawsuit Tuesday against a former Dallas County detention officer over excessive force that damaged her teeth and left her unconscious.

"It was more pain than I've ever experienced in my life," Rhonda Wells said.

Video from the Dallas County Jail showed Rachel Graham perform a leg bar takedown on Wells as she was handcuffed and being booked into the jail. In the video, you can then see Graham turn back to continue filling out paperwork as an unconscious Wells lays on the ground motionless. Seconds later, an officer used her foot to nudge down Wells' skirt, which moved up, exposing her underwear during the takedown.

According to a complaint filed by Wells' attorney, Graham made the move because Wells stepped over a line where she was told to stand. In addition to being knocked out, Wells also suffered broken teeth during the incident.

"I was very confused," Wells said. "I didn't really know what happened until I saw all the blood. And my teeth were slammed together, so I was spitting pieces of teeth out."

The video shows it takes a full minute before Wells was checked on.

Wells, who requested a jury trial, said she still suffers physical and emotional pain from the incident in a news conference Wednesday with her attorney, Scott Palmer.

Graham was fired in 2011 and prosecuted on a felony charge of official oppression against the defendant.

Wells' lawyer said they wanted to wait for that case to end before filing a civil suit.

"This, to me, is one of the most vicious, flagrant, and unnecessary displays of abuse of power that I've seen in quite some time," Palmer said.

Graham pleaded guilty to official oppression and got one year probation with deferred adjudication. That means her conviction will eventually be erased.

The former officer’s attorney said his client doesn’t have the financial ability to pay, if she loses the case.

"You can't get blood from a turnip," said George Milner III. "And I think a judgment against her is going to be worth nothing more than the paper it's written on."

Milner said he's surprised Wells isn't suing Dallas County, and added that she holds some responsibility, too, because of her alleged intoxication. Wells was arrested for DWI after crashing into a liquor store.

"And I suspect if she had been sober, she would've done what she was told," Milner said. "But she didn't. I suspect if she hadn't been so drunk, none of this would have ever happened."

Wells said her lawsuit isn't about the money, but sending a message.

"It's just horrible," she said. "I just don't want this to happen to anyone else. It's horrible."

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

Print
Email
|