Police chief defends officers' use of stun gun on 87-year-old woman

A Georgia police chief is defending his officers’ decision to use a stun gun to subdue an 87-year-old woman who, he said, disobeyed their commands to drop a knife.

However, family members said that Martha Al-Bishara was simply cutting dandelions with a kitchen knife last week, and that the officers should have been more patient.

Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge said he and two other officers at the scene used the "lowest use of force" they could when dealing with the woman who would not comply.

"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."

Police received a 911 call on Friday from an employee of a local Boys and Girls Club who reported a woman with a knife was walking outside and would not leave.

"She's old so she can't get around too well, but ... " the employee said on the 911 recording. "Looks like she's walking around looking for something, like, vegetation to cut down or something. There's a bag, too."

Police said they found Al-Bishara and, after she refused to drop the knife, one officer deployed the stun gun.

Etheridge said he even tried to communicate with her by taking his own pocket knife and throwing it on the ground.

Al-Bishara was charged with criminal trespass and obstructing an officer and released from jail in Murray County later that day.

But Al-Bishara's relatives said the officers should have shown more patience.

"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.

Etheridge said the police department was conducting an internal use-of-force review.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.