Crime & Courts

Wichita officer sues police chief over comments he says wrecked his reputation

File photo of Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay.
File photo of Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay. The Wichita Eagle

A Wichita police officer who says he was wrongly accused of raping a woman while off duty last year is suing the police chief for defamation.

Marlon T. Woolcock says in a lawsuit filed Sept. 5 that comments Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay made publicly about being disappointed in Woolcock’s arrest on sexual assault allegations — including that they “were not in line with the department’s highest standards of conduct” — wrecked his reputation and marred his chances of someday becoming an FBI agent.

Woolcock says in the suit that Ramsay’s statements put him “in a false light” and led people to believe that he had committed the crime at a time when he was merely a suspect. He was not charged criminally in the case.

Ramsay “was more than willing to defame and throw Officer Woolcock under the bus ... to burnish his own carefully crafted reputation,” the suit says.

Wichita city attorney and director of law Jennifer Magana said in an email Thursday that “neither the City nor Chief Ramsay will have any comment on the lawsuit.”

Woolcock’s attorney, Randall Rathbun, declined an interview request. Woolcock is currently working as a patrol officer for the Wichita Police Department, police spokesman Charley Davidson said.

Woolcock is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

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Wichita police officer Marlon Woolcock

Police jailed Woolcock on Feb. 12, 2017, after a 31-year-old woman went to a Wichita hospital and reported that Woolcock had raped her at his home after she’d spent the prior evening out drinking alcohol and celebrating her birthday with friends. The woman, police have said, was an acquaintance of Woolcock’s. He met her an the Pumphouse bar in Old Town and then later took her to his house and had sex with her, according to court records.

Whether the sex was consensual is in dispute. Woolcock claims it was in the defamation suit he filed against Ramsay and in one he filed against the woman in January. He contends that video from the bar shows that the woman was “in full control of her faculties,” one suit says.

The woman, however, in a written response to the lawsuit filed against her, says she was too intoxicated to consent or “have any memory” the evening’s events and “was shocked and concerned to find herself waking up in the bed of someone she hardly knew and never intended to have sex with.”

She has filed counterclaims for assault and battery, outrage and negligent infliction of emotional distress, according to court records.

Ramsay announced Woolcock’s arrest on Feb. 13, 2017, in a joint news conference with Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter, whose office investigated the woman’s report as part of a new partnership where the agencies handle each other’s criminal cases involving officers. During that news conference, Ramsay said the rape allegations lodged against Woolcock “were not in line with the department’s highest standards of conduct and he was disappointed to hear about the incident because when one officer engages in this conduct it reflects poorly on the whole community,” according to the lawsuit.

Ramsay also sent a department-wide email on Feb. 13, 2017, noting his disappointment in Woolcock’s arrest and said that it “will likely take away some of the community support” the department had been receiving, the suit says.

Five months after Woolcock’s arrest, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett declined to charge Woolcock with any crime, citing “a lack of corroborative evidence.”

The suit says Ramsay’s statements following Woolcock’s arrest were misleading, cast him in a “false light” and made it sound like Woolcock was guilty. Even after Bennett declined to file charges, Woolcock’s reputation was still “left flapping in the breeze” because Ramsay refused “to acknowledge the allegations were groundless, issue a retraction or even offer an apology,” the suit says.

Before his arrest, Woolcock “had a stellar record,” applied to the FBI and was told he had a good shot at becoming an agent.

After, he was removed from active duty at the Wichita Police Department and placed on unpaid leave, leaving him unable to find private policing jobs. He lost income as a result, the suit says.

“This caused great harm to Officer Woolcock and his reputation suffered as a result,” the suit says.

Woolcock has been with the Wichita Police Department since 2011 and worked as a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office detention deputy before that. He was reinstated as a Wichita patrol officer about a year ago.

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Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter discuss Monday the arrest of a Wichita police officer during the Wichita Police Department’s regular weekday news briefing with reporters. (Feb. 13, 2017)

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