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Muncie excessive force settlements surpass $1 million

Lonnie Gannom's civil lawsuit filed in August 2020
Muncie City Hall.JPG
Posted at 10:29 AM, May 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-12 10:31:07-04

MUNCIE — The City of Muncie has reached another settlement in an excessive force lawsuit involving its police department.

Records show on May 3, the City of Muncie Common Council approved $450,000 to settle Lonnie Gannom’s civil lawsuit against the city.

This is the fifth lawsuit the city has settled related to excessive force allegations, WRTV Investigates has learned.

Joshua Douglas, Jessie Vernon, Danny Terry and Manny Montero have already resolved their lawsuits against the city.

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Based on information WRTV gathered from their attorneys and settlement documents, those settlements now total more than $1.2 million.

WRTV Investigates asked City Controller Craig Wright for an official total, as well as a breakdown of how much has been paid by taxpayers versus through insurance.

“At the moment we do not have all the reimbursements and total numbers completed,” said Wright in an email to WRTV.

In August 2020, Lonnie Gannom filed a lawsuit against the City of Muncie alleging he was a victim of illegal and excessive force which resulted in several facial fractures.

Gannom sued the city and some of its officers, including Chase Winkle, Jeremy Gibson, Chase Hunter and Joseph Kresja, alleging violation of his constitutional rights.

Gannom says he was excessively beaten in the face, suffered various facial fractures, and required hospitalization as a result of extreme and unreasonable police force.

“While Mr. Gannom still deals with psychological and physical aftereffects related to his August 2018 encounter with Muncie Police, the resolution of his civil case brings some measure of closure and Mr. Gannom looks forward to trying to move on with his life,” said Rob King, attorney for Gannom. “Mr. Gannom’s case exemplifies the importance of police body cameras as a means to monitor and check behavior. Without body camera footage of the Muncie Police Department’s encounter with Mr. Gannom in August of 2018, what happened to Mr. Gannom, and the manner in which his injuries were inflicted, likely would never have been revealed.”

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The conduct Gannom complained of in his lawsuit is also part of an ongoing federal criminal case against several Muncie Police officers.

On April 14, the US Attorney’s Office announced three officers and a sergeant with the Muncie Police Department will face additional charges of excessive force and obstruction after a grand jury returned a 17-count superseding indictment.

Officers Joseph Chase Winkle, Jeremy Gibson and Corey Posey, along with Sgt. Joseph Kresja, were indicted. The superseding indictment charges Winkle with 11 felonies, Gibson with three felonies, Kresja with two felonies and Posey with one felony.

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Officers Corey Posey, Matt McConnell, and Joseph Journay were also named in Gannom’s lawsuit.

McConnell and Journay were not criminally charged.

Posey allegedly asked Gannom to put his hands on his head, but Posey said Gannom was non-compliant and would not put his hands precisely on his head, but would only put them on his side.

Gannom alleges a scuffle involving a group of officers then ensued, which resulted in Gannom being excessively beaten in the face, sustaining numerous facial fractures and requiring hospitalization, according to the lawsuit.

WRTV Investigates has reached out to attorneys for the officers, as well as the current Muncie Police Chief Nathan Sloan seeking a statement on Gannom’s lawsuit.

Winkle allegedly used unnecessary knee strikes on Gannom’s head and neck and unnecessarily tased Gannom, according to the lawsuit.

Kresja allegedly lied about the level of force applied to Gannom to cover up for Gibson, Winkle and Journay, court documents show.

Gibson used unnecessary knee strikes and foot stomps on Gannom’s head, records show.

The City of Muncie has declined WRTV’s requests to see body camera footage related to the Gannom incident, claiming they are “investigatory records.”

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Police Chief Joe Winkle stepped down at the end of 2019 amid the federal investigation into the department.

Officers Winkle, Gibson and Posey are all on administrative leave. Kresja is no longer with the department.