NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office is defending a deputy’s use of a Taser to subdue a struggling woman last week.
The incident was captured by a cellphone video and posted on the Internet.
The video records an arrest at 2:30 p.m. Thursday in the county Social Services building on 10th Street in which a screaming woman is held down on her stomach by a much larger deputy who had used a Taser before he tried to handcuff her. The woman apparently became agitated about filling out a form for Social Services benefits.
Undersheriff Michael J. Filicetti said that the officer was well within his rights to use the Taser and noted that a suspect’s size is not always a factor when deciding whether to use force.
A bystander recorded the encounter, and Facebook user “Lexie DCitsjustfb” published the video. By Monday, more than 34,000 people had viewed video of the arrest. (Warning: Both videos contain graphic language).
The suspect, Angelique Thomas, 24, of Niagara Falls, was taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center for a mental health evaluation and then charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
“They are allowed to use force when they feel it’s necessary to take somebody into custody,” Filicetti said. “It’s not always the size of the suspect; it’s their mental state. We elevate the use of force necessary to make the arrest.”
He noted that by ending the struggle sooner, the deputy was able to bring the woman into custody quicker.
“If he had continue to struggle with her, it could have caused more injuries,” Filicetti said.
Filicetti said the video did not show the woman becoming disruptive with Social Services staff, which then led to the struggle and arrest, nor did it show her complying and being brought into custody.
He said that the Sheriff’s Office has always documented any use of force very well and that road patrol deputies wear their own video cameras.
“We are aware that there are people with cameras out there watching us,” Filicetti said.
“It’s common in social media to see a snippet (of what happened), and we would like to have the full story of what happened.”
In the Thursday incident, the cause for arrest appeared very clear and the comments on Facebook have been mostly positive toward police.
Recently, cellphone video has documented a Niagara Falls woman, Eula McCray, who was arrested for allegedly encouraging her daughter to fight another girl and a Buffalo police officer, John A. Cirulli, who eventually was forced to resign in May after video surfaced of him kicking and slapping a handcuffed suspect.
“Our guys operate under the assumption that they are being videotaped or someone is watching them and they do their job properly,” Filicetti said. “In this instance, you can see that – that he did what he had to do to effect the arrest and that was it.”