A white Florida police officer has been placed on leave pending an internal investigation after he used his taser on a 61-year-old African-American woman during an arrest in Tallahassee. Upon reviewing the video, Police Chief Michael DeLeo said that he has “enough concerns to call for an internal investigation.
After she was tasered, Viola Young was treated on scene and charged with resisting arrest, among other things.
“Based on the video, I have enough concerns to call for an internal investigation,” DeLeo said in Wednesday press conference. “We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident. We want to be transparent with the community by sharing what we can at this point, including the video.” He explained.
“The investigation will determine if the officer’s actions were legal and if those actions were consistent with the expectations I have set for our officers in terms of how we respect and treat our citizens,” DeLeo added.
Robert A. “Gus” Harper III, an attorney representing the woman says that his client is “as confused as anybody” about what happened.
“I know what I’ve seen on the video,” he said. “My gut reaction is sort of like everyone else’s – it looks like an instrument that is used to deter violence is being used as a weapon. I think that goes against the spirit of the whole concept behind Tasers.”
Tallahassee defense attorney Chuck Hobbs asked State Attorney Willie Meggs to “strongly consider” filing charges against Officer Terry Mahan if it is found that the tasing was unjustified.
“I am asking you to strongly consider filing charges directly if you and your top investigators conclude that this incident was unjustified and there is probable cause and reasonable likelihood of a successful prosecution under one or more Florida laws,” he said.
“Officer Mahan ran afoul of the Tallahassee Police Department guidelines with respect,” he wrote. “What this tape shows in real time is that the suspects had already been apprehended and placed into police cruisers, and most crucially, after the verbal command was given to Young.”
Young was attempting to discover what was happening during the arrest when she was warned away. As she continued to attempt to learn the details, she was told she was under arrest. At that point, Young walked away, and Mahan drew his taser and fired it into her back.
In a probable cause affidavit, Mahan wrote, “Viola Young caused me to take my focus off of one of the arrestees and engage her.” He added, “Young’s actions obstructed officers while in the course of completing their legal duties.”
The Tallahassee Democrat detailed the incident:
The officer, according to court documents, got out of his car and approached Quontarrious Jones, 23, and ordered him to stop walking multiple times. Jones was arrested on a charge of resisting without violence.
While Jones was being arrested, Laguna Young, 41, and Quaneshia Rivers, 20, both started yelling at the officers. They, too, were arrested for resisting without violence. Young also was arrested on a charge of probation violation.
Shortly after the arrests, Viola Young approached officers and started yelling at them as they commanded a crowd to stay back from the area. Mahan told her to stay back.
“I just want to know what is going on,” she shouted at officers.
You can watch the video below. Be warned that it contains graphic language.