Police Officer Suspended After Tasering Unarmed 61-Year-Old Black Woman
Tallahassee police have placed officer Terry Mahan on paid administrative leave after video of him tasering unarmed 61-year-old Viola Young raised "enough concerns," Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo announced late Wednesday night. "They just tased a lady for nothing," the man heard in the video says. "They wonder why they're hated."
Young's tasering followed a swath of arrests made by police early Tuesday evening. Police Chief DeLeo told reporters that officers were patrolling the area where Young was tasered and three others were arrested as part of the department's "Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Squad," dispatched in response to complaints about open-air drug sales in the neighborhood. The video taken by a witness was released by police Wednesday night.
According to court documents obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat, officer Mahan first approached Quontarrious Jones, 23—who was walking in the street depicted in the video that has no visible sidewalk—ordering him to stop walking. Mahan arrested Jones on a resisting without violence charge.
While Jones was being arrested, Laguna Young, 41, and Quaneshia Rivers, 20, started shouting at officers—both were arrested by police on the same charge. (Young was also arrested for probation violation.)
After the arrests by police, Young approached officers, with court documents reporting her asking, "I just want to know what is going on." Mahan apparently responded by informing her she was under arrest, and after she attempted to walk away, fired a Taser into her back, causing her to fall to the ground.
"Viola Young caused me to take my focus off of one of the arrestees and engage her," Mahan wrote in a probable-cause affidavit to explain his decision to taser the woman. "Young's actions obstructed officers while in the course of completing their legal duties."
This is another strike against the Tallahassee Police Department for officers' use of violence in arrests. From the Tallahassee Democrat:
The incident was the latest to raise questions about TPD's use-of-force tactics. Earlier this month, Tallahassee city commissioners voted to settle a federal lawsuit for $475,000 brought by Christina West, a Tallahassee woman who suffered broken bones and other injuries during her DUI arrest in August 2013.
In that case, which was also caught on video, West alleged her civil rights had been violated and excessive force used during her arrest, which happened after she crashed her SUV into an unoccupied home. Four officers were suspended and one, Chris Ormerod, was later fired, though TPD said it was over unrelated traffic crashes.
The West case led to the ouster of TPD Chief Dennis Jones. DeLeo, hired late last year, has since been trying to repair the Police Department's relationship with the community. TPD also changed its use-of-force protocols, calling for officers to "de-escalate" encounters with citizens or suspects.
"My gut reaction is sort of like everyone else's—it looks like an instrument that is used to deter violence is being used as a weapon," Young's lawyer, Robert A. "Gus" Harper III, told the Democrat. "I think that goes against the spirit of the whole concept of tasers."