An 87-year-old grandmother who was using a knife to snip dandelions for a salad was tasered in the chest by police — and the chief of police defends the use of force.
Martha Al-Bishara was clipping the weeds last Friday in the woods by her home in rural Georgia, about 80 miles north of Atlanta. That’s when an employee at a nearby Boys and Girls Club called 911 to tell police that a woman was walking around with a knife.
“She’s old so she can’t get around too well, but … ” the employee said on the 911 recording, according to Fox News. “Looks like she’s walking around looking for something, like, vegetation to cut down or something. There’s a bag, too.”
“She told me she doesn’t speak English, and she’s walking up the trail with a knife towards me,” the caller said. But the caller also said she did not appear to be a threat.
Then a major communication breakdown occurred.
“But she came at you with a knife, though, right?” the dispatcher asked. “No,” the caller said, “she just brought the knife onto the property in her hand, she didn’t try and attack anybody or anything.”
Two Chatsworth officers and Police Chief Josh Etheridge headed to the scene. According to their police report, they repeatedly asked Al-Bishara to drop the knife. “Her demeanor was calm, even when we had our guns out,” an officer noted in the police report.
Al-Bishara walked toward the police, and when she was about five yards away, one officer fired his Taser and struck her in the chest. Officers then picked her up and placed her in handcuffs.
Etheridge told WTVC that police used the “lowest use of force” they could. “An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer,” he said. “In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time.”
Etheridge says Al-Bishara ignored orders to drop the knife. But her family members say she was simply snipping dandelions, and a daughter-in-law says she has dementia and only speaks Arabic.
“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.
Al-Bishara was charged with one count of criminal trespass and a second count of obstructing an officer. She was released later that day.