Defense attorneys release video of Chatsworth officers using stun gun on 87-year-old woman
Defense attorneys for an 87-year-old Syrian refugee have released police bodycam video of an incident that made national headlines last August.
Chatsworth Police arrested Martha Al-Bishara after officers said she would not drop a knife that she was holding. Officers eventually used a stun gun on Al-Bishara, who does not speak English and was unable to understand the officer's commands.
Al-Bishara's attorney Jeff Dean plans to file a lawsuit in Federal Court in the next two months.
Dean says she was not a threat to anyone around and she was far enough away from the Boys and Girls Club.
“Dispatch was told she was cutting some kind of vegetation and when they got there she had a steak knife and a bag of dandelions in her hand so just a little bit of observation would’ve told them that she was no danger to anybody," Dean added.
Al-Bishara and her husband are immigrants from Syria who have been living in Chatsworth for the past 20 years.
On August 10th, 2018, officers responded to a 911 call about a woman with a knife on the property of the Boys and Girls Club.
Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge told NewsChannel 9 the nature of the call "a knife at the Boys and Girls Club" was enough to force an immediate response.
Al-Bishara's granddaughter, Martha Douhne, told NewsChannel 9 her grandmother was cutting dandelions with a kitchen knife to use in a meal she was preparing for her husband across the street from her home. Douhne says she was unaware the property belonged to the Boys and Girls Club. The area where police found the 87 year old had no signs indicating the property was owned by the Club.
Douhne says her grandmother was shocked to suddenly find herself surrounded by officers with their guns out, shouting commands in English at the Syrian woman, who only speaks Arabic.
"She was just confused," Douhne told us. " Grandpa was sleeping. She didn't know what was going on."
The police bodycam video released by Al-Bishara's attorneys shows the officers repeatedly commanding Al-Bishara to drop the knife. Al-Bishara is confused, and cannot answer.
Then, while the officer is still about 20 yards away, you can hear the stun gun being fired, and hear the 87-year-old cry out in pain.
The officer approaches the other officers, as they stand her back up on her feet.
Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge told us last year that he believed officers used the "least force necessary" to control the situation.
She was later taken to the Chatsworth Police Department and booked. Her criminal case is still pending.
Al-Bishara's family are urging Conasauga Judicial District Attorney Bert Poston to drop the charges.
Douhne spoke with NewsChannel 9 on Wednesday and says her grandfather passed away at the age of 97 earlier this month. He and Al-Bishara had been married for 73 years.
Attorney Jeff Dean tells NewsChannel 9 that Al-Bishara has not been the same since the incident. He says she does not go out as much as she used to, and has been feeling down.
“You always get a gut feeling when something is excessive force and that was one that hit you right away that it is clearly excessive force there was no danger to anybody," Dean says.
Dean says he hopes the department can use this as a way to look over its policy on use of force.
"There is no reason for them to approach her if there was any danger created by her having a knife in her hand it was because they have walked up to her they had no reason to get that close to her," Dean explained.
Watch the full bodycam video below:
NewsChannel 9 reached out to District Attorney Bert Poston for an update on criminal charges she might face. He did not return our calls.
In the past, Dean told us he had to deal with bigger cases before he got to Al-Bishara's case to decide whether to drop the charges.
The Chatsworth Police Deparment told us they did not want to comment and directed us to the insurance company handling the case, but we have yet to hear back.
Depend on us to bring you updates as we get them.