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Probe Under Way After Man Tasered in Boca-Area Crash

BOCA RATON, Fla.-- About seven sheriff's deputies encircled a young doctor early Friday and four of them shocked him repeatedly with Tasers after a car crash left him disoriented and combative, authorities said Monday.

The doctor, Mark Holder, 30, of Boynton Beach, is the grandson of a former president of Liberia, William R. Tolbert Jr., who was assassinated during a coup in 1980, said Holder's sister, Yende Anderson, in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.

At his mother's request, Holder was transferred during the weekend from Delray Medical Center to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he remained Monday evening heavily sedated and breathing through a respirator, his sister said. He was listed in critical but stable condition.

Holder's mother, Dr. Wilhelmina Holder, who is named as the former Liberian leader's daughter in a recent UNICEF report, flew to Miami from the Minneapolis area this weekend to be near her son.

As she anxiously waits for him to wake up, Palm Beach County sheriff's investigators are studying the crash and confrontation, said Teri Barbera, sheriff's office spokeswoman.

Barbera said the 3:30 a.m. Friday incident near Military Trail and Champion Drive unfolded this way:

Holder met NeNe Piltoff, 47, of Delray Beach earlier that evening at a Boynton Beach strip club. Piltoff told detectives she was sitting in the passenger seat as the doctor was driving south on Military Trail when he suffered some type of seizure and lost control of his blue Cadillac STS coupe.

Piltoff grabbed the wheel but couldn't prevent the car from crossing into the northbound lanes and crashing into a heavy concrete sign in front of the Addison Court strip mall.

Paramedics first came upon Piltoff, who dislocated her elbow in the crash, before turning their attention to Holder. They found him bleeding from the face and head, crawling from the wrecked car.

As they tried to help him, he swatted them away, rising to his feet as sheriff's deputies moved in.

One of the deputies tried to handcuff Holder, who jerked free and, with the cuffs still dangling from one wrist, began flailing his arms.

About seven deputies formed a circle around Holder but Holder kept charging through, like a linebacker in a football drill, until the four deputies drew their Tasers. They shocked Holder "multiple times" but the jolts seemed to have no effect on him, Barbera said.

"He was overpowering us," Barbera said. "It was quite a struggle."

None of the deputies' names was released Monday. No charges have been filed.

Finally under control, Holder was taken to Delray Medical Center, where he remained until his family had him transferred to Jackson.

Holder, the director of Mperial Health, a North Miami Beach-based medical company, also works at urgent care medical centers near Boca Raton and Lake Worth.

His sister called him a "wonderful person" whom many admired.

"People as far away as South Africa are praying for him," Anderson said.

Holder and his family came to the United States after a long and harrowing journey that began in the early 1980s, a time of political instability in his native Liberia, Anderson said.

After his grandfather, who became president in 1971, was stabbed to death in 1980 amid rioting over the price of food, Holder and his family became targets of political persecution, Anderson said.

"As a 2-year-old he endured the trauma of being pulled away from his mother and yelled at by policemen," Anderson said. "He started to stutter."

Holder eventually fled with his mother and sisters to Minnesota, where his father later joined them.

Holder graduated from the University of Minnesota and the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta before completing his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Anderson described him as a dedicated and responsible physician who refused to swallow ibuprofen pills for a sore knee, much less use illegal drugs.

She said deputies should have given him a moment to get his bearings before rushing him after the crash.

"You're bleeding and you don't know why. You have no idea what's going on," she said, imagining herself in her brother's place. "Of course you're going to defend yourself."

She said her brother weighs no more than 230 pounds, not 280 pounds as the sheriff's office described him in a statement after the incident.

She also questioned the sheriff's office decision to tell reporters her brother had been at a strip club and was with a strange woman.

"I'm just wondering why someone would say something to denigrate someone's character when it's not relevant to the situation," Anderson said.

His doctors weren't sure Monday whether Holder's condition was a result of the crash or the struggle that followed, Anderson said.

Barbera suggested toxicology tests, which will reveal whether Holder had been drinking or using drugs, might help to explain his behavior Friday.

"I have no idea what gave him the strength and power he had," she said. "In the end, when we do a thorough investigation, we'll be able to present all our facts and we'll know why."

~michael_laforgial@pbpost.com

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