A 95-year-old Australian woman who was stunned by a police officer in Australia last week has died at a hospital, authorities said Wednesday, shortly after announcing charges against the officer, who used the stun gun to repel her. when she approached him while she was holding a steak knife.
The case sparked outrage in Australia when the circumstances of the confrontation between the woman, Clare Nowland, and the police officer emerged. Ms. Nowland, who suffered from dementia, used a walker and weighed 95 pounds, fell and fractured her skull after a senior officer used the stun gun at the care facility where she lived.
Police confirmed his death in a statement on social media. “Ms. Nowland passed away peacefully in hospital just after 7pm tonight, surrounded by family and loved ones who have requested privacy during this sad and difficult time,” a NSW Police spokesperson said.
Just hours before her death, police said 33-year-old Kristian White, the officer who used the weapon, would be charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily injury, assault causing actual bodily injury and common assault. Mr. White, who has 12 years of experience as a police officer, is expected to appear in court on July 5. He has been suspended from his paid employment while the investigation continues.
Police arrived at the Yallambee Lodge elderly care center where Ms Nowland lived early on May 17 because of a report about a resident with a knife, according to Peter Cotter, the deputy commissioner of New South Wales Police.
Ms Nowland, a great-grandmother, was “armed” with a “serrated edge” steak knife she had obtained in the kitchen, Cotter said at a news conference last week. He added that attempts to negotiate with her had been unsuccessful. “For some reason,” he said, “Clare didn’t drop the knife.”
Speaking at a press conference on the Wednesday before Ms Nowland’s death, Police Commissioner Karen Webb said the episode had been “traumatic” for other officers as well.
“The NSW community trusts their police force,” he added. “This is an incident of many, many calls for service, two million calls for service every year that we respond to, for all sorts of things.”
White has not been charged with murder or manslaughter, and the commissioner said it was possible his charges could be adjusted. “It depends on what happens,” he said.
The episode, which was caught on body camera, has drawn condemnation from many in Australia, particularly among human rights activists and disability advocates, who have questioned whether the officer responded appropriately to the situation. Official NSW Police guidelines say stun guns should not be used on the elderly or disabled “unless there are exceptional circumstances”.