CHATSWORTH, Ga. – A Georgia police chief said an officer was justified in using a Taser to stun an 87-year-old woman after she didn't obey commands to drop a knife in her hand.
Martha Al-Bishara was charged with criminal trespass and obstructing an officer Friday, when police held her at gunpoint before bringing her to the ground with a jolt from the electrified prongs of a stun gun.
Relatives said Al-Bishara doesn't speak English and was merely out cutting dandelions with a kitchen knife near her home in Chatsworth, about 85 miles (136 kilometers) north of Atlanta.
"An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer," Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge told the Daily Citizen-News of Dalton.
"There was no anger, there was no malice in this," Etheridge said. "In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time."
Etheridge responded along with two other officers Friday after an employee of a local Boys and Girls Club called 911 to report 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."
When Al-Bishara didn't follow commands to drop her knife, Etheridge said, he tried to communicate with her by taking his own pocket knife and throwing it on the ground.
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.
Family members said Al-Bishara's spent about two hours at the Murray County jail before being released Friday and that she still has trouble sleeping and is nervous about going outside.
"She is OK," said Martha Douhne, a great-granddaughter. "She is still repeating the incident over in her mind and telling us she didn't mean for this to happen and apologizing that she didn't want to bring this on us. She is having trouble sleeping and is stressed."
Etheridge said the police department is conducting an internal use-of-force review.