Martha Al-Bishara is an 87-year old woman who was reportedly Tased by police while she was picking flowers in a garden.
Al-Bishara is a Syrian immigrant with dementia who doesn’t speak English.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Al-Bishara Was Cutting Dandelions on a Private Property When Police Were Called
Al-Bishara was reportedly on private property near her own home in Chatsworth, Georgia, cutting dandelions with a kitchen knife when investigators received a 911 call about her. The caller apparently said that Al-Bishara wasn’t a threat.
According to WSB-TV, the caller said, She’s so old, she can’t get around too well. Looks like she’s walking around looking for something, like, vegetation to cut down or something.”
When police arrived, they found Al-Bishara with the kitchen knife.
2. Al-Bishara Was Ordered to Drop Her Knife, Then Tased
Al-Bishara was reportedly ordered to drop the knife by police on the scene, and then she was tasered. It’s not clear whether she struggled or resisted the police, but it is known that Al-Bishara doesn’t speak English.
Nephew Solomon Douhne said to WSB-TV, “She really didn’t know what was going on or why they were there. She had no clue what to expect.” Douhne, who is a former police officer, clarified that he doesn’t think the police technically did anything wrong, but rather that he wished they had had a little more “common sense” about the situation.
He said, “Less-lethal force is the practice that we normally (follow), but in this case, you know, if you could tell the communication wasn’t working, she was not posing a threat, give it time, let it play out.”
3. Al-Bishara Was Charged With Trespassing & Obstruction
After being Tased and arrested, Al-Bishara was charged with trespassing and obstruction. She was also taken to the hospital after being Tased, though her family reported that she’s “doing well” and has since been taken home.
Douhne said, “She’s recovering, you know. Still a little sore from what she’s gone through.”
4. The Chatsworth Police Chief Has Defended the Use of a Taser on Al-Bishara
Since the incident, Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge has defended the decision of his officers to use a Taser on Al-Bishara. “An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer,” he said to the Daily Citizen-News of Dalton.
He added, “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.”
5. Al-Bishara Is Now ‘Having Trouble Sleeping’ in the Wake of the Event
After the trauma of the event, Al-Bishara’s great-granddaughter, Martha Douhne, said, “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.”
Despite Etheridge’s insistence that his officers did the right thing, he has also confirmed that the department is going to conduct an internal use-of-force review on the matter.