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Flagler Sheriff’s Deputy Tasers 80-Year-Old Man With Dementia: He Was Wielding a Knife

| October 3, 2014

All road deputies and school deputies carry Taser guns, usually the X26 shown above. (Christopher Smythers)

All road deputies and school deputies carry Taser guns, usually the X26 shown above. (Christopher Smythers)

Last Updated: 4:13 p.m.

Note: a video of the incident appears below.

A Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy on Thursday used his Taser stun gun against an 80-year-old man suffering from dementia as the man refused to put down a butcher knife as he sat in his back porch. The man was later involuntarily incarcerated at Halifax hospital’s psychiatric ward under the Baker Act, which gives police the authority to carry out such confinements. Deputies have had to invoke the Baker Act with increasing frequency, including against very young children and the elderly.

The incident involving the 80 year old took place Thursday at a house on Brice Lane. Deputy Joseph Barile had been dispatched there at 6:40 p.m. because of a domestic violence complaint involving Lionel Maloney, the older man, and his 78-year-old wife Dolores. Initially Dolores could not open the front door for the deputy because it was locked. The deputy walked to the back porch area, where Lionel was sitting.

“Lionel was sitting in a chair with a large butcher knife in his right hand,” the deputy reports. The porch he was in was completely enclosed by either windows or a glass slider. The sheriff’s dispatch center was on the phone with other occupants in the home and requested they lock the door and stay in their room. The older couple’s daughter was present and had also been threatened by Lionel, according to an incident report. The daughter’s own child was also in the house. The Maloneys have been the homeowners for 17 years. Barile asked Dolores to go outside the house. Before she did so, she told Lionel “that law enforcement was going to shoot him if he didn’t stop.”

“I assured Lionel that I was not there to shoot him and instructed Dolores to exit the residence,” Barile reported. Another deputy made contact with Dolores outside the residence. Barile continued to speak with Lionel. “Lionel continuously refused to drop the knife and speak with me. He made multiple threats to include killing his family,” the deputy reports. As he spoke with Lionel, he was able to find an unlocked slider door “that had a couch in front of it making an obstacle for Lionel to have to travel across to get to me.”

The deputy estimated he was about 15 feet from Lionel at that point. “I maintained verbal contact with Lionel and assured him that I was not there to hurt him. He refused to drop the knife and said that law enforcement would shoot him as soon as he did.” Lionel several times told the deputy that he would have to “fill him with lead,” speaking of a death wish that his wife would later confirm. Lionel, Dolores would later tell deputies, had not been taking his medication. “At one point Lionel stated he would stab me and when I asked if he had threatened me, he said no and removed the knife from his chest area. He then began stabbing the pillows next to him. At that time it was apparent that without immediate action the situation could escalate quickly if appropriate action wasn’t taken.”

Individuals suffering from dementia reach a stage when they often go through periods of delusions, act paranoid, become accusatory of those around them and, at times, act violently, even–and sometimes especially–against those closest to them. It is not uncommon for dementia patients to accuse their spouse of wanting to hurt them, kill them, put them out in the street or otherwise harm them. Such patients are not usually aware, as they would have been when in control of their faculties, that they are acting aggressively. Nor are they able to gauge the potential physical strength they may be wielding, or the threat they are posing. When the episode is over, they usually have no recollection of having acted that way. Nevertheless, during such episodes dementia patients can be unpredictable and on some occasions a danger to others and themselves.

Most law enforcement officers are not trained to contend with dementia patient beyond basic instruction on dealing with the mentally ill–which cops have to do routinely. But cops find themselves in such confrontational situations, with limited or no resources to call on and a crisis to diffuse. Disproportionate use of force can result.

A 21-minute video of the incident, captured on Barile’s lapel camera–now issued to road deputies–shows Barile displaying patience and courtesy, again and again asking Lionel to put down the knife and reassuring him that he intends no harm. The tone immediately changes when Lionel begins stabbing a nearby pillow. The deputy then fires the Taser without warning.

“With Lionel having the knife pointing away from him and him sitting down, it appeared the environment was safe for a Taser deployment to gain compliance,” Barile, the deputy, reported. “Once Lionel’s attention was diverted from me and the knife was pointed away from his body, I withdrew my Taser X26 and deployed it on Lionel. After a five second cycle, I advised Lionel to drop the knife which he did not do immediately. Just prior to me initiating another cycle, Lionel dropped the knife. Once I observed he had dropped the knife, I immediately stopped the second cycle and gave him verbal commands to not move.”

A five-second jolt typically delivers 50,000 volts at 26 watts. “This cycle ensures that the nervous system of the target does not recover instantly to allow him to remove the probes,” an informational page about the weapon states.

Once deployed, the deputy approaches Lionel, ordering him not to move, then to get up. Another deputy called in an ambulance for Lionel as Barile walked toward him, pushing the knife away with his foot. Lionel was then instructed to walk toward the front door with his hands on his head as the deputy searched him to ensure he had no other weapons. The deputy resumes his previous tone of voice, guiding rather than ordering Lionel outside and showing no malice at any point, and explaining to Lionel–and, later, Delores–what was taking place.

Only then were the Taser cartridge lines cut. The lines extend from the gun to the hooks or “probes” as they latch on to a person’s skin. “Once outside I removed one probe from his right pant leg and one from his left chest area,” the deputy reported.

Flagler County Fire Rescue’s Unit 21 took Lionel to Florida Hospital Flagler.

Dolores later explained to deputies that Lionel became upset over his living arrangements: again, a common reaction for dementia patients, even those who may have lived in the same place for many years. At one point, Dolores said, he grabbed the knife and threatened to kill the other family members in the house. Dolores said “his dementia has been getting worse and he has become more violent.”

21-Minute Video of the Incident Recorded on Deputy’s Taser Camera
Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

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24 Responses for “Flagler Sheriff’s Deputy Tasers 80-Year-Old Man With Dementia: He Was Wielding a Knife”

  1. Will says:

    Looks like good work by the Deputies.

  2. The Truth says:

    This is a heartbreaking situation. Dementia is a ruthless and horrible disease. I wish the best for this man and his loved ones. My thoughts a prayers are with all of them.

  3. PC LOVER says:

    Great restraint by the deputies, good job in a tough situation.

  4. My thoughts says:

    I don’t consider it a good job by the deputies, and I have third generation law enforcement in my family. It’s an expeditious response to taser the mentally ill and move on, case closed. And I’ve been around long enough to know that we didn’t shoot them in the old days, either. But we won’t take the time to let the mental storms pass and then intervene. None of my relatives that were “Baker acted” were tasered to get there and they were all a lot younger than this guy.

  5. Seminole Pride says:

    It’s time to stop over medicating patients. Doctors are turning patients into Zombies.

  6. Same Thought says:

    I agree with you. Don’t know what restraint PC LOVER is talking about. Restraint not to shoot a disabled person to death. I couldn’t be a cop these days.

  7. A.S.F. says:

    This is a tragic situation that, unfortunately, will be becoming more and more frequent as our population gets older and older. This family needs to be counseled about local resources. The family needs to be referred to the Department of Health and Aging, if they have not already opened a case with them.. If this family has means, they can contact an elder care attorney and/or geriatric case manager to help them with the planning and allocation of resources for their loved one. It sounds like this gentleman should be evaluated by the hospital Psychiatrist as to whether he is really safe to return to the family home at this point. If not, the hospital Social Worker should be helping with an appropriate placement, straight from the hospital. Involuntary holds usually only last 72 hours and then a hearing is required to determine whether a more prolonged hospital stay is warranted. So, everyone needs to get off the stick.

  8. Dave says:

    Taser Cam. How cool is that?

  9. HonkeyDude says:

    I thought they stopped “electric shock therapy” on the mentally Ill years ago. But anyhow did it show any signs of helping the victim other than helping the deputy?

  10. John Smallberries says:

    Well guys, at least they didn’t shoot him. That’s where we are at with law enforcement I guess, happy that they didn’t use lethal force when it wasn’t warranted.

    On the other hand, as much as I might like to taser some of the old people that I have to deal with on a daily basis, My Thoughts above had it right. They tasered him because it was expeditious and didn’t want to take the time to talk him down.

  11. Red Rover says:

    Congradulation deputy…you TASERED an 80 year old man. If everyone would have just left the house for 3 hours, he would have gotten hungry and forgot all about the knife. See how much better that would have been ?

  12. Enlightened says:

    What would of happened to the Sheriff’s Office if this man had a heart problem that the deputy was unaware of? A lawsuit ready to happen. This man was way too old to even consider using a teaser on per the Sheriff’s own policy. You were lucky this time next time use your heads before you escalate the use of force. These deputies are always quick to use unnecessary force.

  13. barbie says:

    Are you kidding me? “Good work”? Tasers can kill strong, healthy people. Police are becoming way too trigger-happy with their toys and it’s getting out of control, I don’t know how anyone in their right mind could think this was appropriate for an elderly man who is not well. .

    At least they didn’t shoot him with a gun, though, huh? Unbelievable. We’re being acclimated to overzealous law enforcement and one day, we are going to be sorry we let it go on for so long.

  14. common sense says:

    To ‘my thoughts’ and ‘same thought’. I’d be willing to bet most Baker Acts don’t involve someone armed with a large butcher knife. Consider that this gentleman turned the knife on himself (fraction of a second) and did inflict great harm to himself after having already threatened to kill his family and showing no care for his own well being. This article would read “Flagler Deputy fails to act and save mentally ill patient”. Sure, he could have talked to him longer and maybe, just maybe he would have dropped the knife or maybe not. I’d not be willing to bet on that. Good job deputy.

  15. Sensible says:

    Whoever said that the deputies did a bad job here need to get their head examined. As a former police officer with 34 years of experience, I can tell you the Flagler County Deputies are some of best trained, professional cops in the nation. YES, believe it or not. We are in good hands and I for one am very proud of them.

  16. Juiles says:

    Yes Seminole Pride—dementia comes from over prescribing medication. Smh

  17. LawAbidingCitizen says:

    This could have ended alot worse. Dep Barile did the right thing, he didnt panic and used a less lethal option. An elderly man got tased, yes… but he had a weapon also, that could have done alot of damage had Dep Barile been complacent. At the end of the day, everybody is still alive, an old man experience a little pain, and will receive some help. and the deputies did a good job.

  18. jon says:

    I can’t believe that young cops couldn’t have restrained an 80 yr old man with or without a knife.
    Tasering an 80 yr old seems so drastic and cowardly.
    Weren’t there 2 cops there?

  19. Knowsalittle says:

    Great job by the Deputy. He did try and verbally de-escalate the situation and the man would not put down his weapon. It seems many comments on here are from people with little to no experience in dealing with dementia patients. I work with them on a daily basis and it can be difficult at times to redirect them when they are agitated. They also have moments of clarity when they are aware of what they are doing. Also, the wife didn’t help by fueling the situation and telling her husband the police would shoot him if he didn’t stop. This situation was handled very professionally and no one was injured by the outcome.

  20. Lin says:

    I read this story and thought the situation well-described regarding the deterioration of dementia as I’ve seen it with relatives and friends.

    I had to read the article again after reading some of the comments.

    Unfortunately, 80 years old or not, he was threat to himself and other people. The deputy tried to talk him down but in my opinion did what he had to do. Thank goodness the man was not seriously injured. Hard decision for the deputy to make in the moment with these dementia patients — more training maybe but predicting how far the patient will go into violence is difficult at best. Hard job for the deputy.

  21. Anita says:

    In view of the escalation in the number of shooting deaths of the unarmed and mentally disabled, I want to thank Deputy Barile for doing a good job. Granted tasers are not recommended for the elderly and the very young, but the deputy made genuine attempts to encourage Mr. Maloney to put down the knife to no avail. Even after Mr. Maloney was disarmed, Officer Barile kept asking if he was alright. Having personally experienced a tense situation, somewhat similar to this one a year ago, I think the FC Sheriff’s office could teach the town of Ferguson, MO a lot about handling potential threats in a non-lethal way.

  22. Shark says:

    It’s obvious this deputy needs more training!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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