The City of Chatsworth and the Chatsworth Police Department have settled out of court with Martha Al-Bishara, an elderly woman who was tasered and arrested in 2018 for $150,000.
Police Chief Josh Etheridge said no suit was filed against them, but the family of Al-Bishara reached out to the city’s insurance company, who determined settling would be more cost-effective than a court battle.
During the case review, the reviewing officer, Captain Kelly Parker noted that after using the CEW device, both officers, Marshall and Etherridge showed compassion and respect to Al-Bishara. The review also stated that the officers used the minimum amount of force needed to resolve the situation. To see a copy of the body cam footage on the Morris and Dean Facebook page, click here.
Al-Bishara, who was 87 on August 10, 2018, when the incident happened, ca
me onto the property of the Boys and Girls club. Someone at the Boys and Girls Club called authorities after seeing her with a knife near the club. Etheridge said he and officer Steven Marshall responded and found Al-Bishara with a nine-inch knife.
“We gave multiple instruction to drop (the knife),” Etheridge said. Etheridge said he even took his personal knife out, gestured to it and dropped it, to demonstrate what they were requesting. He estimates that he and Marshall gave the instructions about 30 times.
The issue arose when Al-Bishara raised the knife above her head, the lowered it to about chest level, Etheridge said.
“She began walking toward (Marshall),” he said. “He told her to drop it and she didn’t.”
He said department policy dictates in that situation, officers should use the taser and it’s a decision he has stood by.
“If we hadn’t followed policy and someone was injured, we would be questioned as to why we didn’t follow policy,” he said. “It’s one of those unfortunate situations no one wanted.”
Al-Bishara was charged with obstruction of officer and criminal trespass.
According to the initial arrest report, officers Marshall and Darrell Summey responded to a call at 4:28 p.m. the Boys and Girls Club at 507 W. Chestnut Street about an elderly woman with a knife. Jaimie Martin, of the Boys and Girls Club told him an unknown woman was behind the club with a knife. They found Al-Bishara down the hill, holding a white plastic bag and a knife. After several orders to drop the knife, she would look at them, but not drop the knife. Etheridge demonstrated what they wanted, to no avail.
“The female began to walk to toward me down the hill. She was approximately ten yards from me when she began to walk. I began to give her loud verbal commands to stop walking and drop the knife. The female never changed her demeanor even after I turned on my taser and pointed it at the female,” Marshall stated in his report.
The officer then used the taser and Al-Bishara fell, where she was helped up by officers then handcuffed.
“Most people think the tasers are set just below killing someone, but they aren’t,” Etheridge said, explaining the voltage was much lower.
According to the police report, Al-Bishara had been told previously to stay off Boys and Girls Club property.
Attempts to reach Al-Bishara’s family were unsuccessful.
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