TORONTO -- Does she look like somebody dangerous to you? Or your grandmother? Sometimes a picture can tell a story better than words. Do you think you would have to use a Taser to get her under control? Or can you think of better ways? Anyway it's spun, Iole Pasquale is 80 years old.
An octogenarian with dementia. Any way it's spun, using a stun gun on the elderly is problematic, according to written provincial guidelines. Yet, on Aug. 28 at 3:30 a.m. near Streetsville, Ont., that is exactly what a Peel Regional Police officer did. Twice. The electrical charge rendered her motor skills functionless and she fell to the ground, breaking her hip. "She had emergency surgery and had 17 staples put into her body to close up the wound," said her irate daughter, Angela Pasquale. She remains in hospital and in pain. A week later, her daughter still can't accept any explanation for police using a Taser on her mother. "She is an 80-year-old woman. Why would they do that? I could have defused that situation." She said her mother thought it was "the afternoon" and that she would go for a walk. "It's the first time she had wandered off," she said. "She is not dangerous. She would never hurt anybody. Or bother anybody. She's a gentle person." Although she did have a "bread knife," Angela said, "my mother told me, it was down at her side and was never a threat." Angela also said her mother was telling police that the knife "is not for you." The SIU is investigating and Peel Police are not officially commenting. But the daughter, who herself works within Ontario's justice system, wants to know more about he decision to use the Taser? "One (hit) was just below the rib cage, on the left side," she said. Was this appropriate? It was close to the heart which could have been lethal. "There needs to be better training for officers," she said, adding the elderly with dementia should "never" be Tasered. She would also like an explanation from the officer who used the weapon. "He led the way to the hospital and then left close to 6 a.m.," Angela said. "No contact from him since." Officers at her house at 4 a.m. told her "she was wearing a nightgown but she wasn't. She was wearing a dress. It makes me question what will be told truthfully to the SIU." One of the big problems when the SIU is involved is getting on-the-record information. As a columnist you try to look for sourced information in lieu and this can be risky. The sources are good and well meaning and all indicated they do have empathy for the Pasquales. But they also feel there is "another side to the story" in which "this was a 911, weapons dangerous call" and not "coppers out enjoying Tasing an elderly woman." Still, I feel I owe Iole and Angela an apology for Wednesday's column in which I quoted police sources saying a woman was seen chasing "her husband down the street with a meat cleaver." This is not possible. "The problem is my father has been deceased for 12 years," Angela said. "And my mother lives alone." I had it from several sources and did not go with it cavalierly. I felt it provided some balance in trying to explain what police may have been dealing with. But I feel I blew it there. The same sources still insist a woman was talking about her husband and there was an appearance of someone being in danger from a woman with a knife. Angela doesn't buy it. "They are just covering their asses," Angela said of police. "It's just misleading." As I pointed out Wednesday, it is curious why the woman was not charged criminally if any of the sourced information is true. "Go ahead and charge her," challenged Pasquale, adding that will not change it was just a "woman in a state of confusion" who's "first language is Italian" and who was not "a danger to anybody." Angela feels it was the officer with the Taser who was actually dangerous -- and that a troubled and confused 80-year-old woman who needed help who was the one in danger.