Tulsa police officers taunted and laughed at a 70-year-old woman having a mental health crisis before violently arresting her, recently released bodycam footage shows.
The video has sparked outrage, but the Tulsa Police Department says its officers followed protocols when they kicked down a bathroom door and tackled LaDonna Paris in an incident last October. Paris had locked herself in the bathroom of a Habitat for Humanity store and refused to leave. She has late-onset bipolar disorder and was having a manic episode.
The Tulsa Police Department says Paris had an aerosol can and a lighter and was trying to set the bathroom on fire. It's what happened before police kicked down the door, though, that's drawing attention. The body camera footage shows a Tulsa police officer arcing her taser, asking Paris if she wants to get tased, and rattling the door to taunt the clearly distressed woman.
"This is gonna be so fun," the officer says as she and her partner wait for another officer to arrive and kick down the door.
Tulsa has a special response team to handle people experiencing mental health crises, but it was busy at the time. Instead, police tackled Paris, bloodying her face. She spent a month in jail on charges of arson, trespassing, resisting arrest, and other charges before a judge dropped all of the charges, citing Paris' mental health.
The Tulsa Police Department released full footage of the incident and defended the arrest.
"To be clear, the banter between the officers outside of the presence of the suspect can be received as unprofessional and has been addressed with the officers," Tulsa Police Capt. Richard Meulenberg said in a statement. However, Meulenberg said that the "overall actions of the officers and the way in which the call was handled is within the policies of the Tulsa Police Department."
Several incidents of police abuse of the elderly have made national headlines in recent years.
A police officer in Loveland, Colorado, Austin Hopp, was fired and criminally charged after bodycam footage showed him violently arresting a 73-year-old woman, Karen Garner, who suffered from aphasia and dementia. Garner was suspected of shoplifting $130-worth of merchandise from Walmart.
Back at the station, Hopp later watched the video footage of him dislocating Garner's shoulder with other Loveland officers for entertainment. "Ready for the pop?" he asked the other officers.
The Solomon-Simmons Law office is now representing Paris."The TPD officers involved were fully aware that Ms. Paris was suffering a bipolar manic episode, yet they still viciously provoked and attacked Ms. Paris while laughing off her disability as if it were a joke," the law firm said in a statement. "We are disgusted by this outrageous behavior caught on video and the fact that the Tulsa Police Department has attempted to shift the blame for the incident onto the victim of a mental health episode and police brutality."