Two Tennessee cops are being criticized for excessive force for Tasering a 36-year-old middle school cleaning woman after they confronted her at night in the otherwise empty school.
Juana Raymundo, originally from Guatemala, has been charged with evading arrest after she ran from the police who thought she was a burglar — despite seeing her cleaning supplies in the hallway — reports the Times Free Press.
According to the police report, Sgt. Jamie Heath and Officer Brian Desmond entered Ooltewah Middle School at 8:30 in the evening earlier this month after noticing a door to the school was left open.
Inspecting the school with their guns drawn, they spotted the cleaning supplies in the hall way before encountering an empty-handed Raymundo who appeared, “nervous and somewhat reserved.”
The officers state that they didn’t point their weapons at the woman as they attempted to question her in both English and rudimentary Spanish — saying she kept repeating “no” as she moved away from them, turning a corner and then running away as Heath yelled at her to stop in Spanish.
According to the two cops, they chased her through the school’s cafeteria, down a flight of stairs and out the building and into the parking lot where Heath warned her to stop or he would use his Taser
Heath said he then used his Taser as he chased her, causing her to fall to the ground.
The officers state they then called for medical back-up.
Investigators afterward said that Raymundo — who works for an outside cleaning service — has difficulties understanding both English and Spanish.
While the Collegedale Police Department’s use-of-force policy allows officers to move beyond verbal commands when a subject is fleeing, a Nashville attorney who specializes in immigration and civil rights questioned their report by calling it “defensively written.”
“This is a pretty defensively written report,” attorney Andrew Free said. “I wonder if this is the same attention to detail that the officer gives every affidavit of complaint. And if so, why wasn’t there more attention to detail noting whether they identified themselves as they were sweeping the building?”
According to Maria Haberfield, a professor of police science at John Jay University in New York City, she thinks the police went overboard in their use of force.
“This was just an open door,” Haberfield explained. “There wasn’t a report of burglary; there was a report of an open door. The officers didn’t witness any extreme acts of vandalism or see that the computers were ripped out — there has to be some correlation between what they witnessed and the response.”
Collegedale Police Assistant Chief James Hardeman said the department has not received a formal complaint against the officers and declined to comment on the woman’s arrest since her court appearance is still pending.
The Times Free Press reports that Raymundo was released on $750 bail and is expected back in court on March 2.