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– She went towards the police officers. She walked slowly – she had a wheelchair – but she had a knife.
This was explained by the assistant chief of police in the Australian state of New South Wales, Peter Cotter, at a press conference afterwards.
The incident he is talking about happened early Wednesday morning at the Yallambee Lodge nursing home in the Australian city of Cooma. The city is located in the area of the Snowy Mountains, a few hours’ drive from the big city of Sydney.
Here, 95-year-old Clare Nowland, who has dementia, was exposed electroshock weapon – a so-called “taser”.electroshock weapon – a so-called “taser”.A handheld weapon that delivers a non-lethal electric shock that disrupts muscle function. According to the police in Norway, a taser works by firing two arrows. When they hit the body, up to 50,000 volts are sent through the body of the person who is hit for five seconds. The person who is exposed to the electroshock weapon loses control over the muscles, and will thus be passivated. The idea is that the weapon should be able to help bring a situation under control in cases where the police might otherwise have had to use firearms. The woman, who allegedly had a knife in her hands, fell and hit her head when she was hit. She is hospitalized with critical injuries.
The incident has caused shock waves in Australia. The police’s use of force is to be investigated, and the elderly woman’s family is critical of the fact that she may have been perceived as a threat.
– This must arouse reactions. Nobody wants their grandmother or their mother to be exposed to stun guns, Margaret Crothers, who is a spokesperson for an interest group for the rights of the elderly told the Australian channel ABC.
Andrew Thaler, who speaks on behalf of the family, says that they have been in the hospital since Wednesday. Nowland has eight children and 24 grandchildren.
– The family is in shock. They are confused, and the local community is furious, he adds BBC.
– How can this happen? How do you explain the degree of power? It is absurd, he adds.
The incident was filmed with police body cameras. Assistant Chief Constable Cotter describes the recording – which will not be made public – as “confrontational”.
This is how the sequence of events is described by the police, according to Australian media:
- The elderly woman is said to have got hold of what is described as a steak knife, with which she is said to have walked around the corridors of the home. The employees called the police, and two police officers were sent to the scene.
- They allegedly asked the woman to put the knife down, which she did not do. She is said to have then been in a small room, and started walking towards the officers who were standing in the doorway. No one else was present in the room.
- One of the police officers fired his stun gun. The elderly woman fell and hit her head, and was sent to hospital with critical injuries.
- The police officer who fired the weapon has been removed from duty while the case is investigated.
According to the rules, Australian police must not use electric shock weapons against elderly and vulnerable people unless the circumstances dictate it, for example if there is a danger to life and health.
– She had a knife. I can’t go further into what was going on in someone’s mind when it comes to using stun guns, says Assistant Police Chief Cotter to Sydney Morning Herald.
– Extremely poor judgement
Nicole Lee, who heads a national association for people with disabilities, describes the incident as “shocking”.
– She is either a very agile, fast and terrifying 95-year-old in good shape, or these police officers have shown extremely poor judgement, she says to ABC.
She asks that it have consequences for the policemen who were involved.
– There is obviously not enough training for the police when it comes to handling situations with people with psychosis, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
New South Wales Police Chief Karen Webb says on Saturday that she has visited Nowland’s family in hospital.
– Her condition is stable now, but the next few days will be critical. They will probably also be very difficult for her family, she added the press afterwards.
– We all want to know and understand what happened, but also why it happened.
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