A 95-year-old great-grandmother died Wednesday a week after being tasered by an Australian police officer inside her nursing home, police said. The woman, Clare Nowland, “passed away peacefully in hospital just after 7pm this evening, surrounded by family and loved ones,” New South Wales state police said in a statement.
An Australian policeman was charged with three counts of assault Wednesday over the tasering of Nowland, who suffered from dementia.
The 33-year-old senior police constable was charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault, the police said in a statement.
The officer, who has been suspended with pay, will face court on July 5.
“Investigations into the critical incident continue,” the police said.
Officers had been called to Yallambee Lodge nursing home in southern New South Wales by staff who told them a woman was “armed with a knife.”
Police said the responding officers urged Nowland to drop a serrated steak knife before she moved toward them “at a slow pace” with her walking frame, prompting one officer to fire his taser at her.
Local businessman and community advocate Andrew Thaler, speaking not long after the incident to Australian television, said Nowland was “about 5-foot-2 and weighs all of 43 kilos [about 95 pounds], she can’t walk on her own without walking assistance.”
“The use of a taser when a kind word was all she needed, if she was confused — which is what happens with people who have dementia — she needed kind words and assistance and help,” Thaler said. “She didn’t need the force of the law, as it were.”
Some politicians are calling for a New South Wales regional parliamentary inquiry and the release of police bodycam video of the confrontation.
“The tasering of Ms Nowland has sparked a community outrage that shows how desperately we need police reform,” state lawmaker Sue Higginson, of the Greens party, said this week. “The refusal to release the bodycam footage protects NSW Police from public scrutiny for all the wrong reasons — the NSW community has a right to know exactly what happened when Clare Nowland was tasered so we can start to take the steps needed for change.”
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