An 87-year-old Georgia woman who was using a steak knife to cut dandelions in a field to use as garnish for a salad ended up tasered by police when she refused to drop the knife.
But Martha Al-Bishara is a Syrian immigrant who did not understand the officers’ commands, which is why she did not comply.
However, Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge said she is lucky to be alive because they had viewed her as a “threat.”
“In my opinion, it was the lowest use of force we could have used to simply stop that threat at the time,” said Etheridge who was the other cop detaining her when she was tasered.
The incident took place in August 2018 and became international headlines but bodycam footage was not released until Tuesday by Al-Bishara’s attorney.
The video is from an officer just arriving on the scene walking towards the chief and another cop who are yelling at her to put the knife down or else get tasered. It does not appear as if the two other cops were wearing body cams.
Seconds later, Chatsworth police officer Steven Marshall tasers her causing her to scream out in pain as she falls to the ground, still clutching the dandelions.
They then transported her to jail on charges of trespassing and obstruction, releasing her two hours later. She then had to check into the hospital for a few days for injuries and back pain from the fall, according to News 9.
Prosecutors have not pursued the charges but they have not dismissed them either, according to the Times Free Press.
Al-Bishara, who has lived in the U.S. for two decades with her family, walked to a field behind the Boys and Girls Club across the street from her house where she began cutting the dandelions.
The field belongs to the Boys and Girls Club even though there were no posted signs. In fact, there was a gaping hole in the fence which Al-Bishara walked through to reach the dandelions.
But a Boys and Girls Club employee spotted the woman walking with a knife and called police, telling the dispatcher the woman was more of a trespasser than a threat, adding that she did not speak English and was only cutting vegetation.
But cops view everybody as a threat, even a frail 87-year-old grandmother who is half their size and more than twice their age. Anything to justify the use of their tactical toys.
In the call to police, which is posted below, the dispatcher asks if she “came at someone with a knife” but the employee said she had not.
“No, she just bringed the knife onto the property in her hand,” the employee said. “She didn’t try to attack anybody or anything. We haven’t closed in our fence in the back yet and she walked through there.”
But Chief Etheridge told local media that a “knife at the Boys and Girls Club” made this an emergency response where no chances could be taken for the safety of the children, even though no children were anywhere near the flower-picking grandmother.
The incident has left Al-Bishara depressed and ashamed. She was recently widowed after seven decades of marriage, according to the Times Free Press:
Timothy Douhne, her grandson, said Al-Bishara is not as vibrant as she was before the showdown. She is ashamed, and she has begun taking medication for depression. Her husband, Azar, 97, died June 1. They had been married for 73 years.
Timothy Douhne said Al-Bishara is from a small village outside of Daraa in southern Syria. Azar farmed oranges, lemons and grapes. During the offseason, for extra money, he photographed families in Syria and Jordan, traveling to assignments by foot with a pack mule. Al-Bishara, meanwhile, raised nine children and looked after elderly residents in the community.
Her son-in-law, Solomon Douhne, immigrated to the United States in 1979. After graduating from Lee University, he taught physical science and chemistry at Murray County High School for 45 years. Timothy Douhne said Solomon taught the officers who arrested Al-Bishara.
Solomon Douhne’s wife, Widad, sponsored Al-Bishara and Azar’s immigration to the United States in 1995.
Al-Bishara’s attorney, Jeff Dean, said he is negotiating a settlement after rejecting a previous offer that was too low.
Watch the video above and listen to the 911 call below.