Disturbing footage of an 84-year-old woman being apprehended in her Oklahoma home by Muskogee County Sheriff Department officers has surfaced online.
Due to the woman’s age, most viewers believe that the officers’ actions are prime examples of excessive force. Now, the department is under fire and the main question centers around whether the officers’ actions were justifiable or not.
According to The Root, the August 7 incident started when officers arrived at Geneva Smith’s home looking for her son, identified as 56-year-old Arthur Paul Blackmon. After being chased by police, he ran into his mother’s home where he was soon tased by the officers.
When Geneva came out to see what the commotion was about, things quickly took an unexpected turn for the worse as officers turned their attention to her. Geneva reportedly asked what was going on, but no explanation was given.
During the 40-second elapsed video of body cam footage, one of four of the officers demanded that she turn around. When she did not, she was pepper sprayed and immediately fell to the ground.
“I just came out and asked them what was going on, and they just pepper-sprayed me,” she told Fox 23.
Although the incident appears to be relatively disheartening to most viewers, the Muskogee County Police Department has defended the officers.
Muskogee Police Chief Rex Eskridge has also explained the reason why the footage was released. Eskridge also touched on the department’s use of force policy which states that pepper spray can be used for “passive resistance.”
Cops pepper-spray 84-year-old woman - Footage shows the moment police officers pepper-sprayed an 84-year-old wo... https://t.co/DvaEi4xy1U— Paul Devereaux (@puttnpdx) August 28, 2016
Since pepper spray is considered a low-grade form of force, the officer believed the tactic was within the policy. Even though the incident has angered many people, the department released the footage for transparency purposes.
“This is a very important issue,” said Eskridge to Fox 23. “There is a lot of missing information out there. There is a lot of prejudgment out there and a lot of concern.”
Despite the department’s attempt to be transparent, the family of Geneva Smith wants justice and have plans to file a lawsuit against the police department. However, attorney Scott Wood has released a statement on behalf of the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Department defending the officers’ actions, according to Muskogee Phoenix.
MUSKOGEE, Okla. - An 84-year-old woman in Oklahoma was pepper sprayed in her home by police last week.— Dave Calderon (@DemosthenesNYC) August 28, 2016
Wood argued that the officers’ actions were ” reasonable given the totality of the circumstances.” In a nutshell, Wood argues the situation escalated as a result of Geneva’s son’s actions.
“It starts off as a traffic stop — that’s a low misdemeanor — but based on the other evidence gathered in those three minutes… it could be a severe crime. It could have been a home invasion,” Wood said.
Wood also pointed out a number of other aspects that contributed to the incident. Blackmon was allegedly pulled over after he ran a stop sign.
The full video from the dash cam reportedly showed him ignoring all of the officers’ commands as he exited the vehicle and entered his mother’s home. Officers later discovered the vehicle was not registered to anyone at Geneva’s Denver Street residence.
However, Geneva’s family adamantly insists she is owed an apology from the police department. Despite chasing Blackmon, the officers did not have a warrant to enter Geneva’s home. So, her family still believes the officers crossed legal lines.
The investigation into the incident will be ongoing. Although the footage released offers a glimpse of the disturbing incident, investigators are hoping to get to the bottom of things to determine whether the officers resorted to pepper spraying Geneva Smith too quickly.
Do you think the Muskogee County police officers should have pepper sprayed Geneva Smith? Share your thoughts.
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