MCALESTER — A McAlester police officer charged with a felony after using his Taser on a handcuffed woman in June has a history of deploying the device in the course of his duty.
Sterling Taylor-Santino, 33, faces an assault with a deadly weapon charge after he used his Taser on Nakina Williams, who was handcuffed. The officer said Williams spit on him immediately before he used the Taser.
At the time of the June 24 incident at the Pittsburg County jail, Taylor-Santino had been involved in 10 of 16 Taser incidents involving McAlester police officers, according to the department's use-of-force reports. The officers began carrying the nonlethal weapons in February 2010.
High assault rate
Taylor-Santino also has been the victim of a high number of on-duty assaults, said Jeremy Beaver, an attorney representing Williams.
“He's like 10 times more likely than any other MPD officer to get into a violent confrontation,” Beaver said. “Why is that?”
Taylor-Santino, a five-year member of the McAlester department, also was named as a defendant in four separate civil rights lawsuits filed in federal court — all of them in 2003.
Documents related to the four federal cases weren't available for this story, but online court records show that settlements were reached in three of the lawsuits. A fourth lawsuit was dismissed.
A review of the McAlester Police Department use-of-force policy suggests that Taylor-Santino may have broken the rules because of the woman's size and the fact that she was restrained at the time, Beaver said.
“Even if she wasn't handcuffed ... there's no reason to use the Taser on her,” he said. “He didn't even have a reason to be talking to her at that point ... she was in the Pittsburg County jail.”
A video of the June 24 incident shows the officer stunning Williams at point-blank range, within 40 seconds of her entering the booking area.
Court records allege Williams was arrested after being drunk in public the night before and that she was being combative with officers before arriving at the Pittsburg County jail.
Williams has a lengthy history of trouble with the law in Pittsburg and Okmulgee counties, including arrests on possession of controlled substances, failure to provide adequate care for her children and public intoxication complaints.
After a brief argument — during which time Williams allegedly spit on the officer — the footage shows Taylor-Santino walking up to the woman and pressing the Taser against her left breast, nearly causing her to fall over.
A bolt of bluish-white light glows for an instant when the officer fires the Taser.
And while Williams never falls to the ground, her lawyer claims the more serious injuries occurred after the Taser was used. He said McAlester police officers violated the department's policy when they removed the Taser's barbs right there in the jail.
“They sat her down on a bench and yanked them out ... they were embedded in her upper-left breast, if you can imagine,” Beaver said. “They were supposed to take her to the hospital to remove those.”
Beaver said he soon will file a civil lawsuit against the officer and possibly others for their roles in the incident.
Taylor-Santino, who was arrested last week and released on his own recognizance, remains on restricted duty pending the resolution of the case. He was previously suspended two weeks without pay for using his Taser on Williams, police said.
Williams recently received a three-year suspended sentence for her actions in June, Beaver said. The officer is due back in court Dec. 14 for a preliminary hearing conference.