Police chief justifies tasing 87-year-old Syrian woman, who was holding a kitchen knife to cut dandelions
Martha Al-Bishara does not speak English and could not understand the commands made by the police at the time of the incident.
An 87-year-old Syrian woman, who did not speak English, was tasered by police as she was cutting dandelions with a kitchen knife. However, a Georgia police chief said his officer was justified in using a Taser because the woman didn't obey commands to drop the kitchen knife she was holding.
Martha Al-Bishara was charged with criminal trespass and obstructing an officer. The said cop held her at gunpoint before bringing her to the ground with his taser gunshot. Relatives of Martha said that she is from Syria and her native language is Arabic. The relatives claimed that she does not understand English and was just cutting dandelions near her home in Chatsworth, about 85 miles north of Atlanta.
"An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer," Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge said, as reported by Daily Mail. "There was no anger, there was no malice in this," Etheridge said adding, "In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat, at the time." Etheridge responded with two other officers after they received a 911 call to report a woman was walking outside the facility's chain-link fence holding a knife and would not leave.
"She's old so she can't get around too well, but," the employee could be heard saying in the 911 recording. Looks like she's walking around looking for something, like, vegetation to cut down or something. There's a bag, too." At first, the police asked Martha to drop the knife.
However, when they realized that she did not understand what they were saying, Etheridge tried to communicate with her by taking his own pocket knife and throwing it on the ground. Despite this, Martha continued to hold the knife at the stomach level which prompted one of the officers to Tase her in the chest. The jolt from the taser caused Martha to collapse to the ground, eventually dropping the knife.
After this, she was handcuffed and led away by police. Her daughter-in-law immediately reached the scene. Martha's relatives believe that the police officers should have had more patience and claimed that Martha also suffers from dementia. "If three police officers couldn't handle an 87-year-old woman, you might want to reconsider hanging up your badge," said Solomon Douhne, the woman's great-nephew.
Family members claim that Martha spent two hours at the Murray County jail before being released. They also added that because of the incident, Martha finds it hard to sleep and is fearful of stepping outside. "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," Martha added.
Following the incident, Etheridge said the police department is conducting an internal use-of-force review.