But when I became a man, I put away childish fears.
It would appear that for some police officers, the trauma of third grade never ends.
Janice Wells called the Richland Police Department when she feared a prowler was outside her clapboard house in the rural west Georgia town.
The third-grade teacher had phoned for help. But within minutes of an officer coming to her backdoor, she was screaming in pain and begging not to be shocked again with a Taser. With each scream and cry, the officer threatened her with more shocks.
Ms. Wells was tased for refusing to tell Officer Tim Murphy, of the Richland Police Department, the name of a man Murphy erroneously suspected of assaulting her. Ryan Smith, of the nearby Lumpkin Police Department, did the tasing after Wells had already received a workover and a thorough dosing of pepper spray from Murphy.
“'You don’t need to know that,'” Murphy wrote in his report was Wells' response. “I told her that she would need to give me the information that I needed or she would be arrested for obstruction. I explained that state law mandates that we investigate to determine if there has been any family violence.”
Now I'm not a Georgia lawyer, but neither is Murphy. And I suspect this is a case in which a police officer is just making shit up as he goes along. It's hard to imagine Georgia law would support a charge of obstruction of justice against the victim of a suspected crime, for refusing to divulge the suspect's name. A suspicion that, by the way, was completely off base. Wells had called to report a possible burglary, and the man whose name Murphy sought was a family friend who agreed to wait with Wells for police to arrive, then was told by Murphy to get lost.
Meanwhile, Murphy had a 57 year old third-grade teacher to work over.
She retrieved her purse and began walking around the side of her house until Murphy said he was taking her to jail.
“Janice then backed up from me in a fight or flight stance and I grabbed her arm and placed a handcuff on it,” Murphy wrote. “She pulled away and she took off. I sprayed her with pepper spray. I chased her around the house and tripped and fell, injuring my knee just as I caught up with her. As I was once again walking her to the car, she broke loose again and ran. She tripped and fell and I grabbed her again. As we got to the car, I attempted to get the other handcuff on her and get her in the car.”
Now this is the point where our police apologist readers will point that if Ms. Wells had only obeyed the officer's lawful command, everything would have worked out fine. All she needed to do was to tell the officer the name of the man who'd beaten her (except he hadn't), or to stop what she was doing (on her own property), and go along peacefully with her arrest (which was illegal).
But then it gets weird. Murphy, unable to subdue an elderly schoolteacher, called for backup.
Smith answered Murphy's call for backup.
In his report, Smith wrote he was concerned for Murphy’s welfare because his voice was weak. “[He] sound[ed] as if he could barely talk,” Smith wrote.
The camera recorded images of Smith's short drive down a two-lane road, but once he got within sight of the Wells' clapboard house, the dash cam also began recording sound.
Yes, poor Murphy had injured his little knee so badly that his fellow officer was concerned, afraid, frightened for Murphy's welfare. After all, 57 year old schoolteachers are known to carry dangerous weapons, like sarcasm and even rulers.
So they tased the shit out of the old woman. Watch for yourself. Or rather, listen. The screams are heartbreaking.
Though both officers have resigned or been fired, this doesn't seem to be that big a deal to Georgia law enforcement. Smith, who says that he wouldn't do anything differently, that "I did what I had to do to take control of the situation," was a hot property. He's now employed by the Chattahoochee County Sheriff's Department, free to zap old ladies at will in another jurisdiction.
As for Richland, at least one cop is willing to tell it like it is:
Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones, who came to the house seconds after the last electric shock was administered, suspects the outcome would have been different if the woman had been white and the officers black.
“I don’t think they would have done a white female like that,” said Jones, who is black. “If they had, it wouldn’t have been any doubt about whether they need to be terminated.”
I'm sorry to say that I can't disagree.