A 95-year-old woman is in critical condition after police in Australia electrocuted her with a stun gun when she approached them with a walker and a steak knife at her nursing home.
Clare Nowland, who has dementia, was shot down by a high-ranking officer, Peter Cotter, NSW Police assistant commissioner, told a news conference on Friday.
At the time, «she was approaching the police, but it’s fair to say at a slow pace,» he said. «She had a walker, but she had a knife.»
It added that an internal investigation has been launched into Wednesday’s incident at the Yallambee Lodge nursing home in Cooma, a small town about 240 miles south of Sydney.
After responding to a call about a patient having a knife in his possession, Cotter said two officers who arrived on the scene found Nowland in a «small and confined» treatment room.
“Negotiations began for her to drop the knife. For some reason, Clare didn’t do that,” she said, adding that the top agent activated her stun gun, which is widely known as a Taser after a major manufacturer.
«I can’t go on in my head as to what was going through somebody’s mind,» Cotter said.
The 5-foot-2 woman, who weighs 95 pounds, fell to the ground and hit her head.
Paramedics rushed Nowland to a nearby hospital where her head injury has left her bedridden. «She stays in and out of consciousness,» Cotter said.
He added that he had left his room and obtained the kitchen knife at Yallambee Lodge, a 93-room facility that “offers a range of accommodation and support options for people with increased care needs, dementia and respite care for both individuals as for couples. ”, According to her website.
NBC News has reached out to Yallambee Lodge for comment.
Community advocate Andrew Thaler, who is helping the family, said Friday they were «shocked, confused, angry and hurt» by the incident.
«There was nothing I could do with the knife,» he said. “I bet all she could do was hurt herself. The police and nurses are trained to treat people with dementia, if they can’t do that why is she there?
Nowland, a longtime member of the community, ran charity shops, regularly attended church and cooked meals for other seniors through outreach work, Thaler said.
“Clare is one of the ladies who gave more than she received,” he added.
Thaler said her family of eight children and more than 60 grandchildren and great-grandchildren knew she was «old and at the end of her life line, but for it to suddenly be interrupted and ruined like that is shocking and confronting.»
«It’s absurd,» he added.
Cotter declined to answer questions about the officer’s criminal charges, but confirmed that he had served 12 years on the force. He added that the officer was «not operational at this stage while he is under review.»
“None of our officers are above the law, and all of our actions will be rigorously scrutinized from a criminal and departmental perspective,” he said.
The investigation named a Level 1 incident, which classifies injuries leading to death or imminent death with exceptional circumstances. Classification ensures the highest level of investigation with the inclusion of a homicide squad.
“Critical incidents are a matter where we are always transparent,” Cotter said.
Two police body cameras captured the incident, forming “an important and integral part of the investigation”, but it will not be released because it is “not in the public interest”, it added.
The investigation will ultimately be reviewed by the South Wales Police Force’s professional standards command, Cotter said, with oversight by the New South Wales Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.