Police use Taser on 87-year-old woman cutting dandelions with a knife

An 87-year-old grandmother using a knife to cut dandelions in the woods near her rural Georgia home last wee...

Posted: Aug 18, 2018 2:37 AM
Updated: Aug 18, 2018 2:37 AM

An 87-year-old grandmother using a knife to cut dandelions in the woods near her rural Georgia home last week was taken down by a police Taser and arrested, according a police report.

Martha Al-Bishara was arrested for criminal trespass and obstruction of a police officer, according to the report. Chatsworth Police said Al-Bishara did not drop a steak knife despite several commands and a demonstration by officers. At one point, she walked toward officers with the knife, police said.

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Georgia

Law enforcement

North America

Policing and police forces

Southeastern United States

The Americas

United States

Police had gone to a wooded area near a Boys and Girls Club last Friday after an employee called 911 to report that an elderly woman was walking around with a knife in the community, around 80 miles north of Atlanta.

"There's a lady walking on the bike trails, she has a knife and she won't leave," the caller told a dispatcher. "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," the caller said.

The Boys and Girls Club employee told the dispatcher that the woman did not seem to be a threat. "But she came at you with a knife, though, right?" the dispatcher asked. "No, she just brought the knife onto the property in her hand, she didn't try and attack anybody or anything," the caller said.

Police arrive, order woman to drop knife

Two Chatsworth officers along with Police Chief Josh Etheridge arrived at the scene, and repeatedly asked Al-Bishara, to drop the knife, according to the police report. "Her demeanor was calm, even when we had our guns out," an officer noted in the police report.

Officers began making hand gestures to indicate dropping a knife, but the woman still did not comply, the report states.

Etheridge told CNN affiliate WTVC that he took a knife from his pocket, showed it to Al-Bishara, and "threw my knife down on the ground, trying to make her understand what we wanted her to do."

At that point, Al-Bishara began to walk toward the group and did not react when one of the officers turned on his Taser, according to the police report.

"The female did not react to the Taser being on, or the white light coming from the end of the Taser," the reporting officer noted.

When Al-Bishara was approximately five yards away, still holding the knife in her hand, the officer fired his Taser and struck her in the chest, according to police. Officers then helped her to her feet, and placed her in handcuffs.

Officers Tased Al-Bishara just across the street from her house while she was on property belonging to the Boys and Girls Club, according to WTVC.

Another woman who then arrived on the scene identified herself as Al-Bishara's daughter-in-law. She said that the older woman typically wanders into the woods looking for dandelions and collects them using a knife, according to the police report.

The daughter-in-law also said Al-Bishara has dementia and speaks Arabic.

Etheridge told WTVC police used the least possible force, and he believes his officers' actions were justified.

The Taser pointed at Etheridge and unholstered firearm should have been indication of what wanted Al-Bishara to do, according to the police chief.

"Most people, that's kind of the universal command for 'stop,' " Etheridge said.

Al-Bishara family attorney Jeff Dean tells CNN that police bodycam footage of the incident exists, but that he has not yet seen it. It is Dean's understanding that the footage was from the camera belonging to the third responding officer, who stood some distance from the exchange between the two officers and Ms. Al-Bishara.

CNN has also reached out to the Chatsworth Police Department to obtain the video, but they have not responded to our request.

'My grandma did not look violent'

Al-Bishara, a Syrian native, usually puts the dandelions in a salad she often makes for her husband, according to WTVC. Family members said the recipe is common in her culture, the station reported.

But the dandelions were not blooming in her yard and they couldn't find any in the store, her granddaughter, Martha Douhne, told the station.

So, Al-Bishara crossed the street, headed for the vacant lot, where she had picked dandelions before, according to WTVC.

Douhne said her grandmother didn't understand what police wanted her to do, and police shouldn't have used a Taser on her.

"Obviously, my grandma did not look violent," Douhne told WTVC. "With the three, four officers that were here, I think they could have controlled her in other ways."

Dean says the family is considering possible legal action against the Chatsworth Police Department, but that it is too early in the process to say what course that may take. Dean is also representing Ms. Al-Bishara in her criminal case.

"It would appear that the officer's use of force was unreasonable," Dean said Friday afternoon.

Al-Bishara's court appearance is scheduled for September 19.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2059485

Reported Deaths: 52483
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings27411410192
Queens2714419760
Suffolk1978663354
Nassau1809923153
Bronx1795276486
New York1355594402
Westchester1280662260
Erie868971760
Richmond731951781
Monroe645691055
Orange47390810
Rockland46388952
Onondaga37416668
Dutchess28816442
Albany24212348
Oneida21950502
Niagara19270344
Broome18057354
Saratoga14863164
Ulster13576250
Schenectady12778195
Rensselaer10957139
Putnam1045691
Chautauqua8670139
Chemung7408134
Oswego726790
Ontario718692
Steuben6580143
Sullivan642571
St. Lawrence638596
Cayuga608592
Jefferson570766
Wayne549467
Cattaraugus543385
Genesee5248121
Herkimer5023107
Clinton472033
Madison440088
Fulton423390
Livingston423058
Tompkins416050
Montgomery4106121
Columbia3913100
Cortland365260
Tioga360161
Warren349757
Wyoming342151
Otsego333447
Allegany332984
Chenango332276
Greene327175
Washington299455
Orleans296783
Lewis256934
Franklin249612
Delaware227637
Seneca194556
Schoharie161616
Essex154626
Yates114426
Schuyler102214
Hamilton3032
Unassigned15277
Out of NY0229
Utica
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Oneonta
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 41°
Herkimer
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 43°
Old Forge
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Looking for work or looking to hire? Check out the WKTV Job Fair!
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve