I was once given a pretty good beating by an elderly woman. She was well into her 60’s, probably close to 70. Yes, it’s true, but I have an alibi. It was one of the first really warm spring nights up here in whatever year this occurred, kind of early in my career. That evening, I was called into the station, where I was met by a sergeant. He filled me in, informing me we were going to a particular address to pick up an older woman, bring her back to MPD where she would then be picked up and transported to the State Hospital by the Sheriff’s Department. Once brought to the state hospital, she would receive an involuntary mental health evaluation.
This woman’s family had successfully obtained this order, or mental health “Prayer” as it is called in NH. She would not be under arrest, that is, she committed no crime, however we were required by the order to pick up and bring her in, even if we had to do it forcibly, against her will. This was not an uncommon assignment in Patrol.
The sergeant and I arrived at the house a short time later. When we entered, we found the woman’s husband and daughter were seated at the kitchen table and told us simply “she’s in there” pointing to a bedroom near the front of the apartment.
Beyond that, the family members didn’t seemed to be very concerned one way or another that we were there. They appeared and sounded very laconic as we spoke with them. I figured they had just had enough of this woman. We went to the bedroom, and there we found a large woman, and her most notable feature appeared to me (in addition to her size) was the dark and rather thick mustache that was growing on her upper lip. She was wearing only a house coat and I would soon discover that she wore nothing else underneath her housecoat. She was walking in circles, talking or praying rather loudly to Jesus in a mixture of English and Spanish asking him for help and who knows what else. In my friendliest and most persuasive manner I could, I introduced myself and tried to talk with her. I explained that she was going to the hospital for an examination, and we were there to give her a ride, which of course was true.
She immediately became even more distraught, which was understandable, and then asked for her bible. Soon the requests turned into angry demands and she was quickly becoming incoherent. After trying to find her bible, without either success or help from her family who sat impassively at the kitchen table, it was becoming more and more obvious she was not going to with us voluntarily. It was beginning to look as though we would have to handcuff her, forcibly escort, or drag her out of her room, never mind the apartment. This type of thing never ends well. To complicate matters her family was present, and even though they initiated this action, my experience had already taught me that when we had to get physical with someone and other family members are present, it often gets even more violent and rarely ends well. I found that to often be the case even when the other family had summoned the police for help in the first place, which was the case here. I had been around long enough to get that feeling that not only was this not going well, I rapidly assessed that we may have a real problem here on our hands. It was important that we get some kind of control over her immediately lest she get her hands on a knife or gun, or any nearby dangerous weapon and use it on us, or the other people in the house. The sergeant gave me the high sign, and I grabbed my handcuffs.
In the Police Academy, and many other types of Use of Force Training I had received, it was always pointed out that when you confront someone who is potentially an assaultive subject, whether its someone encountered on the street or someone you decide to arrest, there are certain physical stances you should take to prevent a sudden attack from seriously injuring you or leading to the loss of your weapon. Without going into the specifics of this training and best practices, suffice it to say I did not exercise prudent caution that day.
Whether it was her age, or the fact the she was a woman, both I guess, I chose to try to be friendly, talk to her in what thought was an affable manner. I didn’t take up a guarded position. As bad as this situation was becoming, I still didn’t recognize that I was in real danger and as result left myself open for the assault that was to follow. I reached for my handcuffs in a casual manner I grasped one of her wrists. Now the prudent thing to do was for each one of us to grab a wrist simultaneously and get the cuffs on both wrists before she could resist. That way we could maintain some sort of control over her if she started to struggle. But no, instead I acted as though I was handcuffing a compliant subject who was being arrested for some relatively minor infraction.
Within a microsecond, she swung around, freeing her wrist from my grip. Simultaneously, she delivered a devastating blow to my groin with her (shod) foot. This blow caused me to immediately collapse onto the floor, like a house of cards when a card is suddenly pulled out from the bottom. I found myself crawling around on all fours, like a puppy dog, in extreme pain I can’t even begin to describe. I remember eventually glancing around from my position on the floor and seeing the Sergeant rolling around the floor with, and trying to get control of this woman. I was, at the time useless as the sergeant wrestled with her. I couldn’t even call for help. (I never would have lived that down!) By this point, her housecoat was open and in tatters, and for the most part she was completely naked, with the exception of her housecoat wrapped around her head and shoulders. It wasn’t a pretty sight and I’m sure the scene looked more than absurd.
While this debacle was playing out, the family remained in the kitchen, apparently deciding not to intercede on either side. Eventually, the sergeant was able to handcuff the woman, with very little, if any, help from me and he was getting her somewhat under control. He called for a wagon. Meanwhile, I was slowly able to get off the floor, and I started to slowly recover.
Eventually, the wagon shows up, and she comes along as the three of us exit the house. I must have looked like hell, I certainly felt like it. Like I said earlier, it was a warm spring evening, in an inner city neighborhood, and like most warm evenings in the early spring, the neighbors were sitting around on their front steps and porches, the daily drinking ritual having begun much earlier due to the nice weather. We had already figured during roll call that we would be in for a long and busy night.
Suddenly, as we left the house, our prisoner started to act up again. We burst out of the house pulling and dragging, pushing and pulling this poor woman who coincidently got her second wind when she saw the neighbors were looking on. We struggled with her as we forcibly assisted her to the wagon. Add to this that the lady was still mostly naked. The sergeant had tried to cover her with a blanket, but she was having none of it. She was yelling and screaming, asking for help, the police were beating her, kidnapping her, etc. I learned early on during my police career that when someone does not want to go with you, there is never a nice way to take that person into custody. No matter how nice and professional we tried to be, the sight of the three of us must have looked terrible to any onlookers who never had police experience.
In a moment’s time, the neighborhood turned on us. They started to move closer, near the cruiser and wagon. They taunted us, screamed, demanding that we let her go. They shouted things I wouldn’t repeat here. They had no idea what brought us there not would they have cared even if they knew what had transpired minutes before inside the house. I can only imagine how bad and ridiculous the scene was that unfolded in the middle of the street and how we must have looked as we dragged and tried to stuff the older woman into the wagon while she pleaded for help. I was beginning to fear for our safety, and I was in no condition to fight. There were four of us there now, the two wagon cops and the Sergeant and I. We were outnumbered by a large crowd, many of whom had been drinking. The situation was starting to get out of hand.
Before you feel too sorry for her, I do have to say she got her licks in. She didn’t go without a fight. And, as far as I can tell, the only one that got hurt that night was me. We eventually got her into and seat belted in the wagon, but not without an ongoing battle. The fact that none of us wanted to hurt her in the process just made things more difficult. We did not have OC spray at the time, so it was wrestle and drag, and no one wanted to us a fist, stick or a baton. The situation that unfolded on the street got uglier by the minute. People started to throw stuff at us.
I figured we were going to get attacked en masse at any moment. The wagon was behind our cruiser, so it couldn’t leave with her until we did. The sergeant yelled for us to get the EFF out, we ran up to the cruiser, and along with the wagon we fired up the blue lights and hit the gas, effecting a close escape along with our reluctant passenger. We didn’t wait for back up to arrive, nor did we bother to locate and obtain witnesses to what had occurred. By this time, I was still in a lot of pain, nauseous, if somewhat functional.
But, that was the night I figuratively and literally got the crap kicked out of me by a senior citizen, who happened to be a woman. I’m sure my previous defensive tactics instructors would have been appalled. None of this helped my ego either. It was a very painful lesson I learned the hard way. There were other lessons as well. Such a large part of our job in the Patrol function was to deal with persons who suffer from an assortment of mental illnesses. Back then the police in this country referred to such persons as MDPs, meaning mentally disturbed persons. They were always unpredictable, and you never knew who or what you were facing when you had contact with them.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time I took a good pasting from someone unusual during my police career. I laugh about them now, but they weren’t funny at the time.