Police officers tased an elderly woman while she was cutting vegetation
Martha Al-Bishara was cutting dandelions near her home in Chatsworth, Georgia when police officers approached her. They told the 87-year-old to put down her knife but Al-Bishara, who doesn’t speak English, didn’t comply. An officer then proceeded to tase her with a stun gun. Yup, you read that correctly.
Officers arrived on the scene after receiving a call from an employee of a nearby Boys and Girls Club.
“There’s a lady walking on the bike trails, she has a knife and she won’t leave,” the employee said in the 911 recording, per CNN. “She told me she doesn’t speak English, and she’s walking up the trail with a knife towards me…it looks like she’s walking around looking for something, vegetation to cut down or something. She has a bag too.”
87 year old Syrian woman tased by Chatsworth police.Did you catch this story? pic.twitter.com/ceCcTtMRnt
— Taylor N. Stewart (@TaylorNC9) August 15, 2018
The dispatcher asked if the woman “came” at the caller with a knife, and the person quickly clarified, explaining: “No, she just brought the knife onto the property in her hand, she didn’t try and attack anybody or anything.”
When police officers responded to the call, they couldn’t get Al-Bishara to drop her knife. One officer told WTVC that he “threw [his] knife down on the ground, trying to make her understand” but the woman didn’t get it and started to walk towards them. That’s when Al-Bishara was tased in the chest and placed in handcuffs.
She was charged with criminal trespassing and obstructing an officer. Al-Bishara’s daughter-in-law explained to police officers later that the elderly woman has dementia, speaks Arabic, and likes to cut down dandelions for her salad.
Outrage over the news was pretty swift. People took to the internet and tried to wrap their minds around police officers using force against a woman in her late 80s.
Something is terribly wrong with police training.
"Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge said the officer had little choice but to use a Taser on al-Bishara when she failed to obey numerous orders to put down the knife as the [87 year old] 5-foot-2 woman stepped toward him." https://t.co/gph8Qhyhy8
— M. Downes (@madmarNH) August 16, 2018
This happened in Chatsworth. So messed up, beginning with whoever called the police. Who sees an old lady cutting down vegetation and thinks there’s something dangerous about that? Who would ever use a taser on an 87-year-old person? https://t.co/BxPVDPZf7Q
— Beth Foster (@BethneyFoster) August 17, 2018
This is what a militarized police force gets you.
Georgia police taser 87-year-old grandmother: Martha Al-Bishara was using a small knife to cut flowers when confronted by police officers, and didn't understand their commands due to limited English. https://t.co/dypGyQMBu4
— Sasha Ivy Fox (@sasha4th) August 17, 2018
Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge defended the officer’s actions and insisted that Al-Bishara could have caused harm. “An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer,” he told the Daily Citizen-News of Dalton.”There was no anger, there was no malice in this. In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time.”
Meanwhile, Al-Bishara is thankfully doing okay, but is definitely shaken up over what happened. Her great-granddaughter Martha Douhne told NBC News that her grandmother is still going over the incident in her mind and apologizing to her family for everything that happened.
“If three police officers couldn’t handle an 87-year-old woman, you might want to reconsider hanging up your badge,” Solomon Douhne, Al-Bishara’s great-nephew, noted.