(ANTIMEDIA) — Police in Chatsworth, Georgia, tasered an 87-year-old woman after an employee at the local Boys and Girls Club called them to complain that she was carrying a knife and looking to cut vegetation on their property.
The caller said Martha al-Bishara did not appear to be a threat. “She’s old so she can’t get around too well,” the employee explained, according to the 911 recording. “Looks like she’s walking around looking for something, like, vegetation to cut down or something. There’s a bag, too.”
The woman says she was cutting dandelions.
When three police officers arrived, she did not obey their command to drop the knife because she does not speak English. Police Chief Josh Etheridge says he tried to demonstrate his order, taking his own pocket knife and placing it on the ground. Despite her age and difficulty moving around, the officer shocked her with a taser when she did not drop her knife started to move toward him.
“An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer,” he told the Daily Citizen-News of Dalton, Georgia.
“There was no anger, there was no malice in this,” Etheridge said. “In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time.”
The woman’s family disagrees. “If three police officers couldn’t handle an 87-year-old woman, you might want to [consider] hanging up your badge,” said Solomon Douhne, her great-nephew, a former Dalton police officer. Though he told local outlet WSB-TV that police didn’t do anything procedurally wrong, he wishes they had exercised more patience.
“Less-lethal force is the practice that we normally (follow), but in this case, you know, if you could tell the communication wasn’t working, she was not posing a threat, give it time, let it play out,” he said. He said al-Bishara was recovering in the hospital.
“She is OK,” said Martha Douhne, her great-granddaughter. “She is still repeating the incident over in her mind and telling us she didn’t mean for this to happen and apologizing that she didn’t want to bring this on us. She is having trouble sleeping and is stressed.”
A nearby resident criticized the police officers’ actions. “This woman don’t bother nobody or nothing,” said Elizabeth Usrey, who lives close to the Boys and Girls Club. “They keep their stuff clean and don’t bother anyone. I don’t really know what happened, but the woman wouldn’t hurt a fly. Using a Taser on someone that age is ridiculous.”
Chatsworth police said they are conducting an “internal investigation” on the use of force in the incident but Etheridge was clear he believes they did nothing wrong.
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