Geneva Smith

Fox 23 out of Tulsa has obtained and published Muskogee Police Department body-camera footage that shows an officer pepper spraying 84-year-old Geneva Smith inside her home.

The department’s investigation into the incident — which began when the woman’s son ran from police to her home — remains open, but enough details are available to conclude that the octogenarian deserved better.

First, the woman’s son should have complied with police requests and not endangered his mother by fleeing to her house. Police are seen breaking through the 84-year-old’s front door in Fox 23’s video, and details published by the Muskogee Phoenix indicate that officers could not determine whether the man lived there before he barricaded himself inside. The man, Arthur Paul Blackmon, was struck with a stun gun in the living room while holding his hands (and phone) up.

Second, when a half-dozen officers encountered an unarmed Geneva Smith in her dining room, they should have dealt with her in a way that valued her safety and health.

Instead, Smith was pepper-sprayed in the face by a female officer in less than one minute of interaction. The 84-year-old woman then fell to the floor.

Muskogee police officer’s decision questionable

While we always urge caution when judging stories involving use of force by police, this scenario raises serious questions about one Muskogee police officer’s decision to pepper spray an elderly woman.

Was Geneva Smith a threat? Was she breaking the law? Was she attacking officers? Could she have overpowered them if she had?

What evidence the public currently has at its disposal would say no to each of those questions, though Smith was clearly upset (and likely confused) by police storming her house and arresting her son.

While an search for Geneva Smith notes that the octogenarian has faced drug charges before, they were dismissed. Perhaps officers involved had heard of Smith from decade-old dismissed charges, but should that even matter? Smith’s treatment seems improper, even if officers suspected they might be entering a home involved in drug trafficking.

Seniors face an enhanced risk of injury

Common sense would indicate that an unarmed 84-year-old woman has an enhanced risk for serious injury during any sort of hostile police interaction.

Surely officers could have calmed the woman without blasting her in the face with a substance intended to temporarily disrupt a person’s vision, breathing, balance and spacial awareness.

In short, Muskogee police officer Michelle Casady chose an allowable police tactic that made an old woman fall over and go to the hospital.

That’s the sort of dumb decision that endangers lives, erodes community trust and leads people who are already suspicious of law enforcement to call cops “pigs” or worse.

No excuse

While the city continues to investigate this event, the fact that Ms. Smith’s idiot son led police on a pursuit should be no excuse for a police officer pepper spraying an 84-year-old woman and hoping it doesn’t kill her.

Don’t believe it? Too bad.

Ask people in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or Detroit whose relatives died after being pepper sprayed.

Those tragic situations ended with funerals for people who were pepper sprayed, and neither of them was 84 years old.

Everyone involved in this Muskogee incident is fortunate that life was not lost.