SD MMA club instructor charged with murder following bar fight

by Ben Dunsmoor | source:

In a sobering moment, a South Dakota MMA club instructor has been charged with murder following a fight outside a local bar.

A co-founder of a Watertown mixed martial arts team faces murder charges after the Thursday death of another man in what police described as an alcohol-fueled assault in a bar parking lot two weeks ago.

Jerrin Stulken, 28, initially was charged with aggravated assault. Stulken, a trainer for the Disciples of Combat MMA team, now faces alternate counts of second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter.

The man Stulken is accused of fighting, Justin Jaton, 26, had been in critical condition at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls since the incident. He died Thursday morning.

The altercation reportedly took place about 3 a.m. March 13 in uptown Watertown's Kampeska parking lot.

Randy Leddy, a bartender and part-time fighter with the Disciples team, said the incident speaks to public misconceptions about his sport. He thinks alcohol explains more about the incident than mixed martial arts.

"It's very frustrating for me that it has to be linked to MMA," Leddy said. "The cage fighting community had nothing to do with it - it was two individuals and liquid courage."

Police say Stulken attacked Jaton, a Rutland native, who sustained critical head injuries and was taken immediately to Sioux Falls.

Stulken continued to strike Jaton after he'd fallen on the pavement, police say.

"The term 'fight' should probably be used very loosely," said Detective Chad Stahl of the Watertown Police Department. "This was an assault."

Jerrin's brother, Jeremy Stulken, is also listed as a trainer for the mixed martial arts organization Disciples of Combat on the group's Facebook page. Last week, Stulken disputed that account without offering details.

"It was self-defense, that's all I've got to say," he said.

Mike Sanchez, the owner of the TCC Association and Stulken's tae kwon do instructor for the past 12 years, doesn't see the fight happening any other way.

"Jerrin Stulken would not punch anyone first," Sanchez said. "Whatever happens, I know it was self-defense."

Stulken was arrested on the murder and manslaughter charges Thursday and is being held on a $500,000 cash or surety bond at the Codington County Detention Center.

"There's nobody that's going to win in this deal. It's just a good example of why not to get involved in these bar fights and how quickly they can turn bad, and how serious consequences are going to come of it," Watertown Police Sergeant Tim Toomey said.

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As a direct result of the fight, one man is dead, and MMA is now being banned in the city.

The city of Watertown will no longer allow mixed martial arts at the Watertown Events Center, Mayor Gary Williams said Thursday.

The immediate rule change is the result of furious community backlash over the death of Justin Jaton, Williams said.

Jaton, a 26-year-old Rutland native, died Thursday morning at Sanford Hospital from injuries sustained on March 13 in a fight with a 28-year-old MMA trainer named Jerrin Stulken outside a Watertown bar.

Stulken is a founding member of the Disciples of Combat fight team, a popular Watertown MMA club. Stulken said last week that he has stepped down as a trainer since the incident, which he called an act of self-defense.

At least 50 people called Watertown City Hall on Thursday to voice their concerns about mixed martial arts events, Williams said. The temporary rule change likely will be followed by a city council debate on whether to ban mixed martial arts from the city entirely or to impose strict limits.

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Recent Comments »

worldhero site profile image  

4/1/11 5:02 PM by worldhero

Bullshit. This writer should have a little more integrity. As it stands, any jokes on an internet forum should be taken for what they are, JOKES ON AN INTERNET FORUM. I would much rather this writer and readers understand their misconceptions than be shielded from some tasteless humor(which I happen to enjoy). Are you saying the people that do not understand MMA in that community and are moving forward towards a Full Ban should just have their ideas uncontested? This is one of the only places on the interwebs that you can go to in order to hear what mma fans, supporters, real instructors and real athletes are really saying. Make jokes? The truth is the funniest joke of all.

Badlands Meanie site profile image  

4/1/11 4:45 PM by Badlands Meanie

<br />Yeah, the club's primary purpose was baseball, and knives are cutting, and it's illegal to cut someone, so that could never happen. Thanks!<br />

The Last Emperor site profile image  

4/1/11 4:41 PM by The Last Emperor

The guys at that gym look like a bunch of random rednecks.

ryans site profile image  

4/1/11 4:39 PM by ryans

Bat: Playing baseballKnife: cuttingHope that helped

ryans site profile image  

4/1/11 4:38 PM by ryans

Dude, people have been firing off jokes about this on here. Bad idea IMO to send the link

Rouge Mod site profile image  

4/1/11 4:38 PM by Rouge Mod

Oh, you are trolling. nvm

Badlands Meanie site profile image  

4/1/11 4:36 PM by Badlands Meanie

A club and knife are not primarily weapons? Do tell!

JDjitsu site profile image  

4/1/11 4:32 PM by JDjitsu

Seriously?Without knowing the full facts? Hope you never have or will be on a jury. Without a video or hearing from some witnesses the 1 punch KO could be fabricated, or that he repeatedly pounded on him after he was out. We don't know the story. There's some circumstances where I'd do that to someone, especially if they had a weapon or harmed my gf or family ect. With adrenaline pumping and thinking his life was in danger and add darkness and most likely booze it could be hard to discern if the guy was KOed after just one punch. All in all it's just a terrible story to hear. One man is dead, and another could be in prison for life. And then there's both of their families also. And then that area could loose their MMA shows. That would be utter bs. I like how someone already brought up that that's like banning baseball after someone gets hit with a bat and dies. It's a lose lose situation for most ppl involved. Sad shit.

Snaggleture site profile image  

4/1/11 3:58 PM by Snaggleture

Jerrin Stulkin....He's THAT guy.... THAT GUY that is going to help fcuk it up for everyone else. Thanks you D-Bag!A MMA trainer should know you can subdue an opponent without throwing a punch. Dude could have put him in a full nelson and waited for the authorities to come.

sideshowsteve666 site profile image  

4/1/11 3:51 PM by sideshowsteve666