Lonnie Tinsley of El Reno, Oklahoma made a nearly fatal mistake last December 22 when he went to check on his grandma, Lona Varner.
Concerned that Lona hadn’t taken her medications, Lonnie called 911 in the expectation that an emergency medical technician would be dispatched to the apartment to evaluate the bedridden 86-year-old woman.
Instead, that call for help was answered by nearly a dozen armed tax-feeders employed by the El Reno Police Department.
Understandably alarmed — and probably more than a little disgusted — by the presence of uninvited armed strangers in her home, Lona ordered them to leave. This directive, issued by a fragile female octogenarian confined to a hospital-style bed and tethered to an oxygen tank, was interpreted as “aggressive” behavior by Officer Thomas Duran, who ordered one of his associates : “Taser her!”
“Don’t taze my granny!” exclaimed Tinsley. According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Tinsley’s “obstructive” behavior prompted the police to threaten him with their tasers. He was then was assaulted, removed from the room, thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and detained in a police car. At this point, the heroes in blue turned their attention to Lona.
The tactical situation was daunting; at this point, the police had only a 10-1 advantage over a subject who — according to Duran’s official report — had taken an “aggressive posture” in her hospital bed. The sacred imperative of “officer safety” dictated that the subject be thoroughly softened up in order to minimize resistance.
Accordingly, one of the officers approached Lona and “stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation,” narrates the complaint, based on Lona’s account. One of the officers then shot her with a taser, but the connection wasn’t solid. A second fired his Taser, “striking her to the left of the midline of her upper chest, and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain,” and unconsciousness. Lona was then handcuffed with sufficient ruthlessness to tear the soft flesh of her forearms, causing her to bleed.
After her wounds were treated at a local hospital, Lona was confined for six days in the psychiatric ward at the insistence of her deranged assailants from the El Reno Police Department.
It has long been established that the worst thing to do in an emergency is to call the police. In this case, Lonnie Tinsley didn’t call the police, yet they barged in anyway and quite nearly “helped” his grandma to death.
(Note: I mistakenly referred to Mrs. Varner as “Lona Vernon” in the original version of this post. )
UPDATE: Read the follow-up.
8:03 am on June 25, 2010 Email William Norman Grigg