The Associated Press
ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) - A police officer who used a stun gun against a 75-year-old woman should have tried a less intense technique to subdue the woman, but won't lose her job over the incident, Police Chief John Gregory said.
An internal investigation found officer Hattie Macon should have tried to hold on to Margaret Kimbrell's arms and wrists before using the Taser, Gregory said Wednesday.
Kimbrell had refused to leave a nursing home after trying to visit a sick friend.
The chief refused to say whether Macon was disciplined by the department, saying that was a private personnel issue.
Macon was called to the EdenGardens nursing home on Oct. 15 after Kimbrell refused to leave. She has said she was distraught after the staff would not disclose the location of her sick friend and she became concerned the friend had died.
Kimbrell then jerked away from the officer as she tried to grab her and later swung her arm at Macon's face, according to a police report.
The officer then fired the Taser, striking Kimbrell in the back, police said. A taser shoots small probes into a person's body, sending 50,000 volts of electricity into the person for five seconds.
Macon followed department policy except for not trying what is called an "empty-hand technique" by grabbing the suspect's arms or wrists, Gregory said.
"We did exactly what we were supposed to do up to that one point," Gregory said. But "we could've ended up in the same place anyway."
The size of the two women also played a part in Macon's decision to use the Taser, Gregory said. The officer is 5-foot-4-inches and 151 pounds, while Kimbrell is 5-foot-9-inches and 145 pounds.
Kimbrell was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.
Her lawyer, Chris Wellborn, would not talk about the police department's findings, but did not think Gregory should have held a press conference and announced the officer's actions were mostly correct.
"He's trying this case in the press," Wellborn said. "He's affecting my client's right to a fair trial If they really wanted to do a full investigation, why in the heck is he doing press conferences where he says he thinks it was justified?"
The case received national attention because of Kimbrell's age, much like two separate incidents in the last month in Florida where a 6-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl were shot by officers using stun guns.
Kimbrell hasn't decided whether to sue the police department and is waiting to see the results of Wellborn's own investigation.
"Margaret feels as though she's been run through a ringer," Wellborn said. "She is a 75-year-old woman with no prior record who has had her name splattered all over the press by the police chief. She feels sick to her stomach, she feels angry and she feels abused."
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Nearly all of Rock Hill's 110 officer carry Tasers and go through four hours of training that includes being shocked by the device, Gregory said. Department policy required officer to assess the suspect's age and physical condition before using the taser, but does not ban the use of the devices on the elderly.