And so we meet Lona Varner, an 87-year old woman from the central Oklahoma town of El Reno, bedridden and respirating with the aid of an oxygen machine. In late December, her grandson called the police in fear that Ms. Varner was in the process of suicide. But the cops discovered that she retained an acute desire to take anyone who tried to stop her into the Void with her.
Newser reports that Ms. Varner kept a knife underneath her pillow and pulled it when the police entered her home. “If you try and get the knife,” she warned, “I will stab you and kill you. I killed four Japs in World War II, and I would not bat an eye killing you.” An ugly remark at an ugly moment, to be sure.
It was followed up by compounded ugliness. One of the officers reached for a Taser and used it on Ms. Varner, burning her to the point where she would require hospitalization. According to her lawyer, the police also “treated the frail woman brutally, ripping the flesh on her arms as they grabbed her.” Police have the right not to be harmed, without question. But is there a policeman alive who can’t disarm an 87-year old bedridden woman without the use of a stun gun?
One of the reason that stories like this make me mad is that it makes people (such as me occasionally) who carry Tasers look bad. The Taser is a great tool, but like any tool it needs to be used properly. And using it on an bedridden 87-year-old woman on oxygen is not the proper use of it, not when she only has a knife. If she had a gun, it could probably be justified. But this woman didn't. If an officer gets a cut on his arm getting a person like this under control, then he can chalk it up as part of the job.
Does that suck for the officer? Well, yeah. But it is the job of law enforcement to serve and protect. That carries risk. And this officer did not protect this woman. As Ackerman writes in the article "[t]here’s something about non-lethal weapons that encourages abuse." It's because they are easy to use. Point, shoot, and your target is on the ground, muscles locked, and screaming in pain. Anyone carrying a Taser needs to learn that they can't be used anytime the officer feels like it. There has to be justification. And you can't tell me that a bedridden old lady with a knife is a serious enough threat to justify an electric shock.