COLUMBIA — The 18-year-old farm worker charged with assaulting Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer claims he never touched the high-profile Marine veteran and puts the blame on an unidentified young woman.
Kanissa'ai Thompson is charged with second-degree assault for allegedly inflicting serious injury on Meyer, 24, during an early-morning fight Dec. 9, but Thompson said he never touched Meyer.
"I never got involved," he told the Lexington Herald-Leader in an interview Friday.
Meyer received medical treatment for the injuries he received at a party held in a Columbia business commonly called the Red Barn.
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Alexis Tooley, a friend of Meyer who was at the party, told the Herald-Leader she later saw three staples closing a wound on Meyer's head. She said the party had gotten "crazy," and more than one fight had broken out.
Thompson said Meyer got involved in a scuffle between young women before he was injured.
The newspaper could not independently verify Thompson's account. Thompson said he would call others who could support his story and ask if they would contact the Herald-Leader, but none did.
Meyer said he did not want to discuss details of the incident, but said Thompson's story was false.
"This is definitely not what happened," Meyer said.
Meyer said the attack was the first time he'd feared for his life since returning from Afghanistan, where his actions in a deadly firefight earned him the Medal of Honor, and that it was unfortunate the incident happened in his hometown.
"I hope this is something we can all learn from and it's a stepping stone to making the community a better place," Meyer said in a statement.
Kentucky State Police won't comment on Thompson's statements or details of the investigation, said Trooper Billy Gregory, spokesman for the post handling the case. Adair County Attorney Jennifer Hutchison Corbin was not available for comment Friday.
Thompson said the party involved students from Lindsey Wilson College, a liberal arts college in Columbia affiliated with the Methodist Church. There were 100 people or more at the party, many of them drinking and dancing, Thompson said.
Thompson said he talked to Meyer at the party before the trouble started. Meyer was among those drinking, he said.
Tooley said she was walking away from the area of a confrontation when she was knocked down from behind and someone began hitting her in the head.
It was Meyer on her back, Tooley said.
However, Tooley said if Meyer did shove her, she does not think it was on purpose.
Tooley, who is not the woman Thompson claims injured Meyer, said she and Meyer have been friends since high school.
Tooley said she was face down and couldn't see who was hitting her. She has heard differing accounts of who hit her, but said she doesn't think it was Meyer. It's possible someone trying to hit Meyer hit her, she said.
When Meyer got off her or was pulled off her, she looked to the side and saw him on his hands and knees, with blood on his face, but no one was hitting him at that point, Tooley said.
Tooley said she left quickly.
Thompson said he believed Meyer had identified him as the assailant because of the potential embarrassment of being hit by a woman, but Meyer disputed that contention during a phone conversation he had with Thompson on Friday.
Meyer called Thompson while he was being interviewed by the Herald-Leader, and Thompson allowed a reporter to listen to the conversation.
Meyer said he did not identify Thompson as the person who kicked him while he was down. Other witnesses gave statements about who assaulted him, Meyer said during the call.
Thompson had called Meyer earlier in the week to talk about the incident, and Meyer called back Friday to see if Thompson was serious about wanting to join the military, which they had discussed earlier.
If so, Meyer said, he would drop the assault charge so it would not ruin the 18-year-old's chances to join the service.
Meyer told Thompson he knew he was "a good kid."
"I want to do whatever to help you out," Meyer said. "If you're going to go to the military and there's no charges pressed on me from anybody, then I'll tell you ... me and you'll go together is what we'll do, and it'll all end."
Meyer was a 21-year-old U.S. Marine corporal when Taliban fighters ambushed members of his unit at a village in Afghanistan in September 2009. Meyer braved intense fire to go to the aid of pinned-down U.S. and Afghan troops, saving the lives of three dozen soldiers, according to the Marine Corps account of the battle.
President Barack Obama awarded Meyer the Medal of Honor last year. He was the first living Marine to receive the award in nearly four decades.
A McClatchy newspapers investigation later concluded that parts of the Marine Corps account of the battle were not accurate or were unsubstantiated, though the stories also said Meyer acted heroically and deserved to be nominated for the Medal of Honor.