CHATSWORTH — “Put the knife down! Put the knife down!”
Then Martha Al-Bishara, 87, can be heard crying out. Taser prongs have hit her left breast and her stomach, according to her family members.
She slowly falls to the ground. Chatsworth Police Chief Josh Etheridge holsters his gun before turning Al-Bishara over and handcuffing her. Eventually, she is brought to her feet while still lightly sobbing and speaking in Arabic.
Etheridge removes the prongs, and Al-Bishara is walked off of the property of the Boys and Girls Club in Dalton.
A Chatsworth Police Department officer’s bodycam captured these moments on Friday. The footage shows Etheridge and Officer Steven Marshall in a stand off with a woman who is holding a knife, Etheridge with a pistol aimed at the woman and Marshall with a Taser in his hands. They pleaded with the woman to drop the knife.
“I completely understand and if I hadn’t been there and it would come across my desk, that is the first thing I would ask as well,” Etheridge said. “Why did we Tase an 87-year-old woman? I guess in that circumstance, I am glad I was there and saw it firsthand and understand why it occurred. An 87-year-old woman with a knife still has the ability to hurt an officer.”
He said the goal was to not have to use deadly force.
Al-Bishara was charged with criminal trespass and obstruction of an officer, both misdemeanors. She was released on her own recognizance after family members said she spent two hours at the Murray County jail.
Al-Bishara’s daughter and granddaughter arrive shortly after the Taser was used, the bodycam footage shows, but emergency medical personnel were not called and none of the officers told family members Al-Bishara had been Tased, the family members said.
Al-Bishara has lived in the area for 22 years and along with her husband became a naturalized citizen in 2001. A neighbor said she was shocked to learn what had happened.
Etheridge said the police department will conduct an internal “use of force” review and that Marshall remains on duty without any restrictions.