Elderly, Unarmed Black Woman Tased in Kenosha; Two Officers Suspended

June 15, 2021 10:30p: updated 6-16 10a with additional detail on arrest  

(WGTD)---Two Kenosha police officers were suspended for five days for tasing a 77-year-old Black woman who may have had physical and mental impairments.

According to reports that were released by the police department Tuesday at WGTD’s request, the incident began with a slow-speed pursuit that stretched from Mt. Pleasant to Kenosha in the early morning hours of January 15th. It wasn't clear why Mt. Pleasant Police initially wanted to stop the woman, since the reports provided by Kenosha Police indicated that the driver was obeying traffic laws during the lengthy pursuit. 

Margaree Burns eventually pulled over in the 4100 blk. of 30th Ave. but refused to comply with officers’ demands and remained in her vehicle for three minutes, telling officers to “come get me out.”

By then, a total of seven officers, two Kenosha County Sheriff’s deputies and a barking police dog were on scene, with some of the officers pointing their guns at Burns and shouting what were termed in the reports as “conflicting” orders. Amidst the chaos, Burns eventually slowly stepped out of her car, struggling to push herself up.

That could've been the end of it, except Burns continued to ignore the officers and starts to shuffle off down the street, as one supervisor described it.  Burns then turns toward and starts to approach two officers who both wind up firing their tasers at her.

Although the stun guns appeared to have little effect, the officers rushed the woman and took her to the ground. 

The officers with the tasers—Matt Curi and Kevin Roepke—were both given five-day unpaid suspensions this month for excessive use of force, according to a Police and Fire Commission document.

According to the police reports, the two officers said that Burns’ furtive movements while in the vehicle and outside on the street led them to believe that she may have been armed.

Supervisors who reviewed the evidence—including dash came video from multiple squads--concluded that the officers should’ve eventually realized that the woman posed no threat. “As Burns stood in the middle of the road, she did not appear to be a threat as her hands were visible and she seemed to be communicating with officers,” wrote Sgt. Leo Viola. Inspector Tom Hansche said, “Her movements were neither animated nor aggressive.”

Viola wrote in his report that judging from a squad video it appeared that Roepke and another officer were going to arrest Burns without forcing her to the ground, although a voice on the video is heard ordering her down. But Viola says she wound up on the ground after a KSD deputy "grabbed hold of Burns." 

Almost immediately after the arrest, officers realized that something wasn’t right. A doctor who examined the woman at a hospital said that it appeared she was suffering from some type of “brain” issue. According to the reports, Burns believed she was in Chicago—not Kenosha.

In his assessment of the case, Deputy Chief Eric Larsen—who now serves as interim police chief—recommended that all of the officers who were at the scene that night receive remedial training in intervention options, and that the officers involved in the actual chase receive further training in pursuits.

The suspensions come in the wake of rulings that the officer who shot and wounded Jacob Blake last summer did not use excessive force.