Police: Tasing 80-year-old was 'best way to apprehend her'

Published: Jun. 15, 2012 at 6:50 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2012 at 7:28 AM EDT
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - St. George Police Chief Anthony L. Britt said that an officer who tased a nude 80-year-old woman was justified  because the woman could have hurt police officers and EMS crews with her metal walking cane which she was swinging at officers.

"We just felt that was the best way to apprehend her and not let her hurt anybody or herself," Britt said on Friday. "There was no other way to get her to come down from where she was at that point."

On May 21, a lieutenant with the St. George Police Department contacted emergency dispatch regarding noises he heard near his home. A police officer responded and said he found a nude elderly woman in front of a home on Gavin Street banging her walking cane on the rail of the steps.

"Officers made contact with her. She was non responsive and quoting scriptures from the Bible," Britt said.

Britt says he and another officer arrived shortly after and attempted to talk to the woman. Some time later, a lieutenant with the police department and EMS crews arrived.

According to Britt, police and EMS personnel attempted to talk to the woman with negative results. Police say they attempted to get the cane away from the woman which almost got officers injured.

"She swung the cane several times at different officers as they were trying to approach her," Britt said. "One of the officers that came from behind almost got hit in the head with the cane. At that point, I just told the officers,'She's in a safe position, just go ahead and tase her so we can prevent anybody from getting hurt.'"

Authorities say an officer who was positioned behind the woman fired his taser. Britt says "she went down" and officers immediately took a blanket and covered her. EMS crews then transported her to Colleton medical for evaluation.

"That was messed up," said Troy Hallman, a neighbor. "They should have said,'This lady's not in the right state of mind. Let's try to get the cane out of her hand and get her where she needs to be.' You got to shoot an old lady? Come on."

"That is bad, that is bad," said neighbor Doreather Green."They could have done something else besides tasing her with that gun."

Britt says he had no choice but to order his officer to tase the woman since he was concerned about the welfare of the officers, EMS crews and the woman. According to Britt, his department has never had problems with her before and in fact saw her at the grocery store the week before.

"I don't think it was fair," said neighbor James Brown. "I think they could've handled the situation a little bit better than that. They didn't have to shoot her with the taser gun."

Britt said after the incident, police contacted the woman's family and said they were appreciative of the situation and were on their way to take care of the woman.

"We contacted [the woman's family] on the scene. We told them what was going on and they said,'Thank you,'" Britt said. "They said they would be down to get her the assistance that she needed."

Officers say the home where the woman was found had three of its windows broken.

According to Britt, the woman's family was not angry about the tasing incident. No charges have been filed.

Copyright 2012 WCSC. All rights reserved.