Taserized: Neighborhood Walk Ends in Police BrutalityMarch 1st, 2012
Kyle Ann Ross writes from an experience she’d had when she’d first come to Asheville, aglow with the city’s tolerant and artful reputation. She had needed to start a new life with her daughter after her husband had died suddenly with a stroke.
“Taserized” is her account of being mistaken for a burglar and/or drug dealer in Oakley one morning, apprehended with violence, and pitched into a surreal environment of law and order.
It also turned out to be a calling.
“I found myself building community around justice issues,” she writes in her forward. “I emerged the woman who can not only share this story with you but hopes to inspire justice system reform and support for others.”
After a page of brochure prose about Asheville’s charms, Ross does a very good job telling her hell-and-back tale, a slow-motion nuanced remembering with an overlay of urgent commentary.
“The officer held what looked like a gun in his left hand,” Ross relates after telling how she’d taken one step away from a police officer when he’d beckoned her on her way to taking care of a neighbor’s pets at 6 a.m.
The officer—Ross doesn’t name him—held his arms out stiff in target practice mode. He informed Ross that there had been a larceny reported at Ridge Apartments. Ross replied, “If you need to be down at those apartments, then why aren’t you?”
After a long silence, the officer said, “Why are you yelling?” He didn’t want to wake up the neighbors, he said; he’d grown up in Oakley.
Two more officers came, having been called for support. The situation escalated. Ross was frisked and then tasered, twice, causing mental confusion and constriction of her lungs. She was not released even after the officers went to the 911-caller and discovered that the description of the perpetrator did not match Ross.
At the county jail and before a judge, Ross found suspicions about her outsider status weighing against the fact that the police had realized that a young officer had overreacted to being made a fool of. To clear herself, she had to provide names of people who could attest to her standing in the community.
Ultimately, she was freed; and stage two commenced—Ross’s filing of a complaint and lawsuit; and the justice system’s reactions. As part of a negotiated settlement, Ross asked to attend a police training session on the use of force; and to help review the policy regarding filing charges.
Though Ross’s story becomes a mission statement, the mission shows growth toward understanding, including about the pressures that officers feel in a “broken system.”
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