Report: Utah Officer Had Authority to Arrrest Elderly Woman Over Refusal to Water Dry Lawn

A state investigation cleared an officer who arrested a 70-year-old woman during a dispute over her failure to water her brown lawn.

Orem police have said the incident could have been handled differently. But they're satisfied with a state report that found Officer James Flygare had authority to arrest Betty Perry.

The investigation by the Utah Department of Public Safety also found that he was not responsible for the gash on Perry's nose.

"His actions were necessary to gain physical control of Ms. Perry and to prevent escalation of the incident," according to the report released Monday.

There is no dispute that Perry refused to give her name to Flygare, who visited July 6 to issue a ticket for failing to take care of her front yard.

As she walked back into the house "dragging" him, Perry tripped and fell against the door jam, injuring her nose, the report said. There were no witnesses.

"Ms. Perry's non-cooperation was the single most aggravating factor in the escalation of this incident," the report said.

She was handcuffed and taken to an Orem holding cell before Flygare's bosses learned about the arrest and released her.

"We have maintained from the beginning ... that there were other ways to handle this situation short of taking Betty Perry to jail," said Lt. Doug Edwards, Orem police spokesman.

Flygare returned to his job Tuesday in the police department's neighborhood unit.

At the time of the arrest, Perry's water had been shut off for about nine months, at her request. Orem has such a policy for people who are away for extended periods.

Perry claims she was a victim of excessive force.

"We feel that it is clearly biased against Betty," her attorney, Gloria Allred, said of the report. "It appears that law enforcement is out to get Betty, a 70-year-old great-grandmother who was simply trying to lead a quiet life."