This sort of taser abuse could never happen here

On a day when Victorian police announce they’re commencing trials of tasers in Morwell and Bendigo, comes this story from the US of how the things can be misused by police, as they tase an 86 year old bedridden grandmother:

According to officer Duran’s official report, Mrs Vernon had taken an ‘aggressive posture’ in her hospital bed.

In order to ensure ‘officer safety’, one of his men ‘stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation’.

Another of the officers then shot her with a taser, but the connection wasn’t solid.

A second fired his taser, ‘striking her to the left of the midline of her upper chest, and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain’, and unconsciousness.

Lona was then handcuffed with sufficient ruthlessness to tear the soft flesh of her forearms, causing her to bleed.

Okay, that sounds bad, but you haven’t seen just how intimidating Lona Vernon is in person:


Terrifying: enough to make the bravest police officers reach for their tasers.

I’m sure the Oklahoma police didn’t make the same promises to their community to use the tasers responsibly as our police have to ours, though. It’s completely different here. We’ve got nothing to worry about.

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21 responses to “This sort of taser abuse could never happen here

  1. I’m just so against the use of tasers:

    http://www.smh.com.au/national/police-inquiry-into-stun-gun-shooting-in-city-20090614-c7fu.html

    In so many cases it’s simply lazy policing. (Notice how many coppers are fat? Most couldn’t chase a suspect if they had the inclination to.)

  2. Read the police report before you go on about bedridden grandmothers. http://www.scribd.com/doc/33557136/Dallas-Org-El-Reno-Police-Report-on-Lona-Varner

  3. Interesting, but still highlights how dangerous taser use can be.

    The woman wasn’t going anywhere: the police seriously couldn’t disarm her safely without tasing her? Don’t they have riot gear?

  4. Police report, schmolice report. The officer who made the statement as part of his response to a complaint lodged against him. Of course his side of the story sounds like the armed coppers had to stop Rambo’s granny from decimating the El Rino police force. Read what the 86 yr old lady and her grandson had to say and you’re more likely to get an idea of what really happened:

    When Lonnie Tinsley of El Reno, Oklahoma, called 911 to ask for medical assistance for his disabled, bed-ridden grandmother, he couldn’t have dreamed it would end with police tasering the 86-year-old woman twice, stepping on her oxygen hose until she couldn’t breathe, and sending her to a psychiatric hospital for six days.

    Yet that’s what a lawsuit (PDF) filed in a federal court in Oklahoma this week alleges.

    According to the lawsuit, in December, 2009, Tinsley came by his grandmother’s apartment to see if she was doing alright in the midst of a winter storm. When she wasn’t able to tell him if she had taken her medication, Tinsley called 911 and asked responders to send medical technicians over to evaluate her.

    But instead of an ambulance, the lawsuit alleges, “as many as 10 El Reno police” arrived and “pushed their way through the door.”

    At that point, 86-year-old Lona Varner told police to “get out of her apartment.” That’s when officer Thomas Duran, described in the lawsuit as the “leader” of the police unit, allegedly told another officer to “taser her.”

    When Tinsley responded “Don’t tase my granny!” the officers threatened to taser him instead, the lawsuit states.

    In his police report, officer Durgan asserted that Varner “took a more aggressive posture in her bed,” evidently causing him to fear for his and his officers’ lives.

    Police then handcuffed Tinsley and took him to a waiting squad car. They released him without charge some time later. Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleges, officers “stepped on [Varner's] oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation.”

    Officers then fired a taser at her, hitting her twice, causing her to pass out, the lawsuit states.

    At the direction of El Reno police, Varner was sent to the psychiatric ward of St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, where she was held for six days….

    Right. A grandson is asked to make sure his nanna is OK during a snowstorm. So he rings the emergency line and asks for ambos to check on her condition. Instead, some 10 cops rock up, forcing their way into the house and then electrocute an 86 year-old, bed bound woman coz she told them to get out.

    Now, when pulled up on his actions, the cop makes up a story designed to have us believe he feared for his safety. Because “she showed a more aggressive posture in her bed” had to taser the old woman a couple of times, cut off her oxygen supply by stepping on the air hose, handcuff the grandson for speaking out against them attacking his granny, handcuff and by doing so ripping the old woman’s skin, and then put her in a loony bin for close to a week.

    But hey, at least she survived her encounter with the police. Unlike Mr Ward in WA, who was cooked to death in the back of a prison van on its way through scorching heat, the two officers driving the van not giving a flying fuck about the man. And now the DPP tells us that no charges will be laid, no one held accountable.

    An aboriginal man killed by fuckwit white prison officers, who cares. But an Indian doctor performing as head of surgery medical procedures on seriously sick patients which then go wrong, and the man will be hunted across continents, millions spend, so he can be charged and convicted of manslaughter. Our justice system is about as racist as it gets. I am sick of it.

  5. Blast Tyrant

    Yep, that is pretty fucked up.

    Juan, the prison officers were private contractors from G4S i think. They’ve got quite the reputation in the UK for their treatment of Asylum seekers.

    I don’t know much about the Patel case, whether he deserved his punishment etc, but I certainly agree with your analysis of how our justice system is more intent of pursuing certain people over others.
    I’d throw Mulringi’s murderer Chris Hurley in there as well.

  6. I think the best that can be said for this development is that it might result in less people being needlessly shot dead by our trigger-happy Victoria Police.

  7. “An aboriginal man killed by fuckwit white prison officers, who cares. But an Indian doctor performing as head of surgery medical procedures on seriously sick patients which then go wrong, and the man will be hunted across continents, millions spend, so he can be charged and convicted of manslaughter. Our justice system is about as racist as it gets. I am sick of it.

    Best post I’ve read this week. Let’s face it if it was a wealthy white man cooked in the back of the van the there would be sufficient evidence. Palm Island is another example, if the victim was white and wealthy this mess would have been cleaned up already.

  8. mondo rock

    You guys don’t really believe that Patel is being persecuted because he’s Indian do you?

    His many greviously harmed and dead victims might have an issue with that (somewhat hysterical) observation.

  9. skyisgreen

    And the idiot officers shouldn’t be messing with medical equipment they clearly don’t understand.

    Oxygen deprivation *increases* agitation and propensity to violence. Ask any Emergency Department doctor.

  10. No mondo, I’m just highlighting the disparity of the justice system for dealing with instances where aboriginal people died compared to white people. Pate’ls victims and G4S’s victim were a result of negligence, we moved heaven and earth to bring Patel to face justice but decided there’s not enough evidence to pursue the GS4 Guards.

    “(somewhat hysterical) observation.”

    I also raised the issue of Cameron Doomadgee, I though it was rather clear that I’m talking about the victims.

  11. the best bit was when they locked her in a psychiatric ward for 6 days

    i hope they introduce a similar “mandatory detention” scheme for beserker grandmas in morwell

  12. You guys don’t really believe that Patel is being persecuted because he’s Indian do you?

    In Australia every year thousands of people die in hospitals as a result of misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment. No criminal negligence cases yet. But Patel gets fried. Why him and not the others?

    Juan, the prison officers were private contractors from G4S i think.

    It makes no difference to me if they were private contractors or correctional service officials, they would have heard his desperate pleas coming from the back of the van. State sanctioned manslaughter, thats what this is, a DPP crying crocodile tears for the camera about how unfortunately nobody in particular could be held responsible for this act of incredible cruelty.

    And yes, Chris Hurley’s killing of an Indigenous prisoner is another classic example of how the Australian justice system operates. You don’t wanna be coloured.

  13. the best bit was when they locked her in a psychiatric ward for 6 days

    What do we learn from this? Telling the cops to leave your house should they inexplicably invade, is grounds to have your sanity questioned.

  14. confessions

    Jeremy: I don’t know where to put this, but what do you think about the Vic Newspoll results?

    Greens on 18%. Do you reckon these people are parking their vote out of dissatisfaction with Brumby govt? What are the major election issues down there?

  15. extragiblets

    On first examination, this is awful beyond belief.
    Reading the police report however, it is clear that one of the problems was the presence of the grandson who, quite naturally, was trying to calm the woman but in doing so was approaching the bed.
    The police were stuffed. We know that the old lady was suspected to be under the influence and acting irrationally. Of course they could have backed off but if the grandson had his neck slashed in the presence of the police, they would only be facing some other charge of negligence, failure to protect him or whatever.
    There is no doubt that tasers are misused. I think it was on this site of Jeremy’s that I saw an awful, distressing video of a bloke being tasered because he dared to speak from the audience at some sort of political speech. He was tasered after being held down and after begging not to be tasered.
    Yes it happens but I can’t believe that these police would strut in and and blast an old lady for fun.
    I suspect that if the grandson had left the room with the police, then the situation would have calmed down.
    It has been suggested above that the police report was one sided. News reports and victim statements are also one sided.

  16. Confessions – what do people mean by “parking their vote”? It’s an incredibly patronising way the big old parties put the Greens and their voters down, as if we’re all just waiting to go back to the old parties. I’m not.

    EG – the police could’ve held the son out of the room away from the knife and disarmed the old woman while wearing protective gear. Tasing was massive, massive overkill.

    PS I don’t think they did it for “fun”. I think they did it because they were a mix of incompetent, scared, angry, and confused.

  17. confessions

    what do people mean by “parking their vote”?

    They don’t want to give their No. 1 vote to Labor, so they say Green when a pollster calls them.

  18. Where’s this assumption that our default vote is Labor come from?

    I don’t want to give my No. 1 vote to Labor either: but I’m not “parking it” with the Greens – that implies it’s the ALP’s to recover later. It isn’t.

  19. confessions

    There will always be rusted on Greens voters like yourself. But you surely don’t believe that recent federal Newspoll polling which had the Greens vote at circa 15% pre Gillard, and 8% post Gillard represents a normal week-to-week fluctuation. It doesn’t.

    FWIW I think the post-Gillard polling should be taken with a grain of salt at this point. But that doesn’t explain the Vic results, where no such leadership turmoil has occurred. I don’t live in Vic, but from reading your blog it seems that progressive voters have issues with Laura Norder policy responses, and public transport. Could these issues explain the high Greens polling?

  20. No idea, but those would be a good start.

    I think the main reason progressive people park their votes with Labor is that they think that you have to vote for a big old party if you don’t want your vote wasted, haven’t seen through the News Ltd lies about the Greens, and haven’t figured out yet that the ALP doesn’t actually have any intention of representing anything they believe in parliament.

    I look forward to the day when it finally clicks and they vote for a party that WILL represent their views.

  21. Blast Tyrant

    You guys don’t really believe that Patel is being persecuted because he’s Indian do you?

    As I said, i don’t really know enough about it. On the surface it seems like Patel should have been prosecuted, so I have no beef with that.
    But why not Hurly and G4S?

    Juan, it doesn’t make much difference to me either. It does seem though that private contractors in the history are an even worse breed of scum.

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