Friday, May 16, 2014

Southern Beale's Take on the 93-Year-old Texas Woman Shot By the Police

Southern Beale

Right now everyone is focusing on whether the officer, who was subsequently fired, was right to shoot the woman. I think it’s debatable either way without seeing video. What I want to know is, if a 93-year-old woman isn’t able to operate a motor vehicle without endangering public safety, why did anyone think she was capable of handling a firearm? Based on how this story unfolded, clearly she was not.


  1. I've dealt with two elderly female relatives, one on each side of the family, not quite into their 90s, but pushing the upper limits of their 80's when they were stricken with Alzheimer's. It was not easy to persuade them to get diagnosed by a doctor, because both of them suspected they might be affected and were hoping to deny it as long as possible. Both had dangerous motor vehicle accidents, one nearly hitting and killing a small child. Both fought intensely against surrendering their car keys in spite of the clear evidence they were grossly incompetent behind the wheel driving. In once case we had to seek the intervention of county authorities, and then subsequently go into court to have the woman declared a vulnerable adult, unable to act for herself, and depriving her of the right to drive, and putting her in a care facility against her will. She was a danger to herself and others, including starting fires in her residence through the negligence brought on by her illness affecting her mental capacities. The other woman was easier to institutionalize, but there were issues involving both her driving, and brandishing a firearm. She actively hallucinated threats and made threats with that firearm in response. At one point she was convinced people on the nightly newscast were climbing out of her television set, and rummaging through her house, taking her things, as an example.
    Her dementia was not constant, nor was it easily discernible to those who only saw her occasionally. The ONLY reason we lucked out with the gun toting Alzheimer relative was that her next door neighbor was a public health nurse with a high ranking position in the county health system, and that she recognized the symptoms and was able to assist personally with law enforcement to get the gun away when it was brandished - and it was loaded btw.
    I don't know if THIS elderly woman was suffering from some form of dementia, but the statistics make it more likely than not. We have no way of knowing if she was in an impaired state when she waved around the gun in question, but certainly the officer had a very reasonable concern that she presented an active and imminent potential danger. We can only hope that an autopsy might give some additional information about that, but to fire the officer without that information seems doubly unfair.
    As sad as this shooting was, I have tremendous sympathy for the officer, who I believe must be deeply traumatized by having to make the decision to shoot that he did. But I see no reason to believe he made a wrong decision, so his firing only compounds the pain and damage from this situation.
    One of the problems we face with all these old, flabby and crabby white guys with guns is that we have no method, no system, either for dealing with cars OR guns to intervene and to have some health system that checks for impairment, both physical and mental, that could adversely affect their judgement and handling of either guns or their vehicles -- and we need to have that.

    1. Periodic exams for continuing gun ownership would largely solve this problem.