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Oklahoma granny gets shocked by Taser; sues El Reno police

El Reno police officers here are being sued for using a Taser last December to subdue a disabled grandmother, then 86, in her apartment bed.
BY NOLAN CLAY, Staff Writer, Modified: June 25, 2010 at 6:46 pm •  Published: June 25, 2010

/articleid/3471297/1/pictures/1004219">Photo - Lona M. Varner is seen in this provided photo.
Lona M. Varner is seen in this provided photo.

"The police then fired a second Taser, striking her to the right and left of the midline of her upper chest and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain and to pass out," attorneys alleged in the lawsuit. "The police then grabbed Ms. Varner by her forearms and jerked hands together, causing her soft flesh to tear and bleed on her bed; they then handcuffed her."

The grandson also was handcuffed and placed in a police car when he protested police attempts to Taser his grandmother, the attorneys alleged. He was freed to go with his grandmother in an ambulance to the El Reno hospital.

The lawsuit does not mention that Varner had a knife.

In his report, Duran wrote he deployed his Taser first but it did not affect her because one of the two prongs went into a blanket. He wrote, "I told Officer Sandberg who was next to me that my Taser was not working. Officer Sandberg deployed his Taser with both prongs making contact. The Taser rendered Varner incapable of any further aggressive action. Officers were able to remove the knife from Varner's hand and secure it safely."

Duran reported Varner had looked him in the eyes after he arrived at the apartment and said to him, "If you try and get the knife I will stab you and kill you. I killed four Japs in World War II and I would not bat an eye killing you."

Duran also reported, Varner talked of killing police again after being taken to Parkview Hospital in El Reno. "Varner told me she was going to kill every officer that was in her apartment when she got out. Varner told me she was going to snap my neck like a twig just like she did during World War II."

Varner's attorney, Dell, said both Varner and the grandson said she told police to leave her apartment but they deny she threatened to kill officers. They also denied that she talked in the apartment of killing Japanese.

The grandson "said she didn't say anything like that at all at the apartment," the attorney said.

The grandson recalled she did say things at the hospital about having killed Japanese but "there was never any threats to the cops," the attorney said.

Varner was a civilian volunteer on hospital ships in the Pacific during World War II, the attorney said.

Varner was reluctant to discuss her lawsuit. She at first told The Oklahoman, "You can talk to my attorney. Thank you," then hung up.

In a brief follow-up call Thursday, she was asked what she had done in life before retiring. She said, "I did a lot of things." She did not explain further.

Asked if the Taser hurt, she said, "Well, that's for me to know and you to find out."

The attorney said Friday that people are offering to contribute to a fund for her. He said the offers began after the lawsuit started getting attention on the Internet.

El Reno police last faced controversy over using a Taser in November 2008 when an uncooperative driver was shocked after a crash. The police chief said later officers had no way of knowing the driver was in diabetic shock. A video of the 2008 incident was widely circulated on the Internet.


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