CHICAGO – Chicago's Police Department is investigating an officer's use of a Taser last month on an 82-year-old woman who police say was swinging a hammer when they arrived.
Lillian Fletcher was rushed to the hospital after being jolted by the Taser last week, but has since been released, police said Tuesday.
Tasers use compressed nitrogen to fire two barbed darts that can penetrate clothing to deliver a 50,000-volt shock to immobilize people.
Touted by law enforcement officials as less lethal than other ways of subduing combative people in high-risk situations, the weapons have come under fire around the country after they were blamed for several deaths.
Officials with the city's Department on Aging went to Fletcher's home Oct. 29 to check on her, and called police when they saw Fletcher in a window swinging a hammer back and forth, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said Tuesday.
Officers arrived and in an attempt to subdue Fletcher one of them used their Taser, Bond said. The department is trying to determine if the officer violated department policy regarding the use of stun guns.
On Tuesday, Fletcher said officers had pushed their way into her home. "They shocked me," she said.
Fletcher at times sounded confused during the telephone interview. Her granddaughter Traci Taylor told the Chicago Sun-Times that her grandmother suffers from schizophrenia and dementia.
"My grandmother is easily confused," Taylor told the newspaper, adding that the elderly woman can be belligerent but is about 5 feet 1 and no more than 160 pounds.
"I just don't think they should be Tasing 82-year-old women. That's ridiculous," Taylor said.
In 2005, then-Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline temporarily suspended the distribution of stun guns following the deaths of two people after police shot them with Tasers.
Today, about 150 field training officers are set to be issued new Tasers and about 200 sergeants have had the weapons for about five years, Bond said.
The human rights group Amnesty International USA has voiced concerns that police departments are starting to use Tasers more routinely rather than in cases of serious danger.
Taser use by police drew national attention recently when police stunned and arrested a University of Florida student after his fervent, videotaped outburst at an event with Sen. John Kerry in September.