A Lot Of People Say "WTF?", But They Don't Know What They're Talking About. THIS is "WTF?"

Don't Tase my granny!

Police Tasered an 86-year-old disabled grandma in her bed and stepped on her oxygen hose until she couldn't breathe, after her grandson called 911 seeking medical assistance, the woman and her grandson claim in Oklahoma City Federal Court. Though the grandson said, "Don't Taze my granny!" an El Reno police officer told another cop to "Taser her!" and wrote in his police report that he did so because the old woman "took a more aggressive posture in her bed," according to the complaint.

Now I know what you're thinking.  Did he fire six shots or only five?  Sorry, that's not what you're thinking.

You're thinking, dude's making this up.  This comes from The Onion. It's a parody of the spate of recent news stories on criminal assaults by the police against civilians.

But it isn't.  It comes from Courthouse News Service, which is a respectable web service quoting directly from lawsuits filed in federal court, in this case the western district of Oklahoma.

And from this, we know or can strongly suspect the following to be true:

1) Lonnie Tinsley found an attorney with the guts to make these allegations in federal court, so I assume there's some basis in fact for the allegations.  The lawyer on Seinfeld wouldn't invent a story like this;

2) Lonnie Tinsley's grandmother, Lona Varner of El Reno Oklahoma, is 86 years old and hooked to an oxygen tank;

3) Lonnie Tinsley became worried that his grandmother hadn't taken her medications, so he called 911 to ask for medical help;

4) Multiple El Reno Oklahoma police officers responded instead, and shot Lona Varner with a TASER;

5) There is an incident report, filed by an Officer Thomas Duran of the El Reno police department, which says this:

Instead, the apparent leader of the police [defendant Thomas Duran] instructed another policeman to 'Taser her!' He stated in his report that the 86 year-old plaintiff 'took a more aggressive posture in her bed,' and that he was fearful for his safety and the safety of others.

6) Lonnie Tinsley, who called 911 for medical help for his grandmother, was then arrested and thrown into the back of a police car.

I don't know anything about Varner's attorney, but I do know this: no sane lawyer would file a federal suit claiming that an officer had Tased an 86 year old woman in her bed, justifying it by claiming that grandma "took a more aggressive posture in her bed," without a document from which he could quote that actually said that.  And without an arrest report.

So it stands to reason that Lora Varner, 86 years old, probably demented, and hooked up to an oxygen tank, was Tased by officers fearful for their safety, because she took an "aggressive posture in her bed."


Update: Thanks to our friend Jag for the police report, which we're posting here but originally comes from Carlos Miller: 33557136-Dallas-Org-El-Reno-Police-Report-on-Lona-Varner

I'd encourage you to read Miller's link, which has a photo of Ms. Varner.

To place things in context, the very obviously demented Varner, according to Duran, pulled a kitchen knife on Duran from under her pillow.  So she was shot with a Taser, placing her at risk of heart failure or (because a Taser needle can penetrate plastic tubing as easily as skin) exploding in a fiery holocaust of pure oxygen death.

On the other hand, I could disarm this lady, and so could you, and we're not ten police officers.

"If there's a gun I take the bullet.  If there's a knife I take the blade." — Mr. T.

Because Thomas Duran and his keystone cops couldn't disarm an 86 year old invalid grandmother, she was Tased, and her grandson who probably, for some irrational reason, objected to the Tasing was arrested.

If only Mr. T had been around, everyone would have settled their differences with a tall, icy glass of milk and a nice bowl of cereal, and the people watching on television would have learned a valuable lesson about sharing, friendship, and respect for one's elders.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. says

    It's the oxygen. It keeps them frisky, and you know how frisky old folks can present a danger to hot looking men in uniform.

  2. Jag says

    Police report:

    (link removed and document posted up top, hosted on our own server so as not to sponge bandwidth, along with a link to Miller's blogpost – Patrick)

  3. says

    Well, maybe you could have disarmed her. We'd never know if I could; I wouldn't get that close to somebody with a knife and an expressed intention of using it. (I've got two — well-mended — holes in my right retina from when a blind, eighty-year-old retarded man caught me upside the head with what I'm told was a perfectly-performed backfist. I was attempting to hold him down so that he could get his flu shot. He didn't want it. I'm glad he didn't have even a butter knife; the poor guy was absolutely terrified of shots, and being an insulin-dependent diabetic, he was either going to get a lot of them or die. Wasn't my call.)

    Which is not to say that I'm going to leap on the zap-the-crazy-old-lady bandwagon. Even to get hauled up on it, I'd want to know what the friggin' rush was. And I'm suspecting that there wasn't a real one.

  4. Imaginary Lawyer says

    Jdog, we're not police officers who are supposed to be trained in dealing with people who do not have all their marbles. There is a difference in handling "86 year old demented bedridden gramma with a knife" vs. "25 year old physically able meth user with a knife". Of course there was some danger to the officers, but the idea that the knife made it A-OK to whip out the taser is insane (and I know you're not agreeing with it).

    I'm suspecting the rush was that somebody got a shiny new Taser.

  5. says

    I am conflicted, in part b/c it seems like Patrick concealed the fact of the knife in his post. Also, I am thinking about how I would have handled the situation. I would probably remove the grandson from the premises to protect him from accidental injury…but then what? Any suggestions? I agree an 86 year-old woman doesn't pose a substantial threat, but does the officer have to wait until she gets off the bed and starts attacking him? Perhaps the officers should have gone outside and treated the issue like a hostage situation, but time was apparently of the essence–according to the grandson, the woman had swallowed a potentially lethal dosage of medicine.

    (BTW, the report seems vague about how the woman suffered the large laceration.)

  6. says

    And I understand Patrick did mention the knife in the post, so "concealed" was a poor choice of wording:

    "To place things in context, the very obviously demented Varner, according to Duran, pulled a kitchen knife on Duran from under her pillow."

    At the same time, I was thinking about an ordinary kitchen knife when I read Patrick's reference, and the police report seems to indicate a much larger knife. I have not had my coffee yet, so forgive my trespasses :-)

  7. Patrick says

    I haven't seen the knife Matt. It could be a butter knife, or it could be a Norman Bates special.

    But with ten cops in the room? Tasering an 86 year old lady hooked to an oxygen tank? I don't care if she had a katana handed down from Miyamoto Musashi.

    Remember, the cops were in her home. She had committed no crime, and her grandson wasn't calling for the police, but for medical help. Officer Thomas Duran disobeyed a LAWFUL COMMAND to leave her property.

    She should have cut them all to pieces, just as Musashi destroyed all 57 samurai of the Yoshioka school, singlehanded, at the Ichijoji temple.

  8. says

    Yeah. I mean, if trained cops can't handle a bedridden 86-year-old on oxygen with highly limited mobility without tasing her, I think it's pretty clear EVERYONE is going to get tased if the cops feel like it.

  9. Jag says

    I think Musashi would totally have been tased.

    BTW, I think Point #3 is wrong, at least according to the report. The Grandson allegedly called the police because he suspected she overdosed in an attempt at suicide. So now the Police are possibly in a time sensitive situation. The 911 tape would corroborate that.

    Is attempted suicide (or a suicide in progress) a crime?

  10. Nancy says

    And standing on the oxygen hose is definitely going to help if the overdose is dangerous.

  11. Imaginary Lawyer says

    For true WTFery you really must read the police report.

    I think my favorite part is about how elderly people routinely receive bad lacerations "with the slightest of contact with objects".

  12. Dennis says

    YOU disarm her, then. And do so without breaking any of her frail bones. It's a lose-lose situation.

    I think my favorite part is about how elderly people routinely receive bad lacerations “with the slightest of contact with objects”.

    That described my late father to a T. He always looked like he'd been tumble-dried in a concrete mixer full of bowling balls.

  13. Imaginary Lawyer says

    Dennis – I think you're talking about bruises, which are different from lacerations.

  14. Patrick says

    I've seen her face, Dennis, and I can guess what her arms looked like from the photo of her face. Thin, frail sticks.

    Which again, is why I'm amazed that they used a Taser. While I'm confident any reasonably strong man could have disarmed her, using a heavy oven mitt for protection, if that doesn't float your boat they could have spoken calmly to her, in soft, soothing voices. They could have asked her if she'd like a cup of coffee, and explained that they weren't soldiers of the army of imperial Japan. They could have waited her out. If there was pressing business elsewhere, say one of the bank robberies or hostage shootouts for which the big city of El Reno Oklahoma is famous, eight of them could have left. Lona Varner wasn't going anywhere.

    Instead, they fired 50,000 volts into her, despite the warning from TASER International that Tasers aren't to be used on people who might have heart trouble, a fair assumption to make about an 86 year old woman hooked to an oxygen tube.

    The only people for whom I hold more contempt than these thugs are lickspittles who defend them.