Originally published on October 3, 2014, at NationofChange.org
Florida police officials have launched an internal investigation into an incident involving an officer firing his taser into the back of a 61-year-old woman.
According to the police report, Officer Terry Mahan of the Tallahassee Police Department attempted to arrest the elderly woman for simply asking a question. When she turned to walk away from the aggressive officer, Mahan shot her in the back with his taser to subdue her.
On the afternoon of September 30, Officer C. Woods was on a routine patrol when he noticed five people including a child walking in the street. According to the police report, Quontarrious Jones, Quaneshia Rivers, Laguna Young, and two others stepped aside to let Officer Woods pass them. While the patrol car continued down the road, Woods noticed them stepping back into the street and immediately turned his car around to confront them.
According to witness statements, Woods had pulled up alongside the small group and ordered them out of the street. They replied that there was no other place to walk since no sidewalks existed along the street. Woods exited his vehicle and arrested Jones for talking back to him.
While talking on his cell phone, Jones attempted to walk past Woods when the cop grabbed his arms and placed him in custody. As Woods escorted Jones towards his patrol car, Sgt. T. Bergeron, Officer Terry Mahan, and Officer T. Early arrived on the scene to back up Woods.
“I could hear the subjects yelling at Officer Woods in a hostile manor demanding the reasons for the arrest,” Officer Early wrote in the police report.
After handcuffing Jones and placing him in the back of his patrol car, Woods informed Young that she was also under arrest and attempted to grab her. Young pulled away and continued talking on her cell phone when Woods grabbed her shoulder and swept her leg. After Young fell to the ground, Woods rolled her onto her stomach and cuffed her hands behind her back.
As officers also placed Rivers under arrest, local resident Pouchon Richard stepped onto his porch and began filming the cops with his cell phone. At this point, 61-year-old Viola Young arrived at the scene and told the officers, “I just want to know what is going on.”
Instead of de-escalating the situation, Mahan approached Viola in an attempt to arrest her as well. After Mahan failed to grab her arm, Viola turned to walk away when Mahan shot her in the back with his taser. The 61-year-old woman hit the street face-first then rolled onto her back before Mahan cuffed her hands behind her back and placed her inside a squad car.
“They just tased a lady for nothing,” a witness can be heard saying on the video. “They wonder why they’re hated.”
Quontarrious Jones, Quaneshia Rivers, Laguna Young, and Viola Young were arrested for resisting an officer without violence. After Richard posted the video of the incident online, Tallahassee Police Department officials decided to launch an internal investigation to determine whether Officer Mahan had used excessive force against the elderly woman.
“I was enraged, but what can you do?” Richard asked. “That’s why I put the video up — to make sure the world sees it and make sure…somebody can do something about it.”
In recent months, the Tallahassee Police Department has been repeatedly accused of using excessive force during arrests. On September 15, Tallahassee City Commissioners agreed to a $475,000 settlement deal with Christina West after officers used excessive force during her August 10, 2013 DUI arrest. Dash cam video of the incident revealed officers had escalated the situation by unnecessarily hitting her face against the rear windshield of a patrol car and slamming her face-first into the pavement.
West sustained fractured cheekbones, nerve damage, and multiple other injuries. Although West had allegedly been drunk when she crashed her van into an empty house, assault and battery charges against West were eventually dropped and DUI charges were reduced to reckless driving.