A homeless woman whom a police officer shot with a Taser no longer faces a theft charge, Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson said Tuesday.But the police department's investigation into the incident continues. Officer Melinda Calvano used the Taser to subdue Carol Alexy, 63, last week. The Aspen Daily News on Monday cited an unnamed police source who said Calvano suspected Alexy of stealing a sweatshirt from behind The Thrift Shop. Alexy allegedly tried to escape the officer, who used the Taser on the suspect a few blocks away.Ryerson declined to say why the charge was dropped.
Official details of the incident have not been released because the investigation is ongoing, he said."We'd be way premature to say what the outcome's going to be," Ryerson said.Witness statements continue to come in, and police supervisors are reviewing the circumstances that led to the incident, he said. But even after they are complete, conclusions of internal police investigations are usually not made public.This was the first time this year an Aspen officer has used a Taser, Ryerson said."We take every use-of-force circumstance extremely seriously," he said. "We're looking into this to make sure it either fit or didn't fit with the policy."
The Aspen Police Department's policy says officers can "employ reasonable and necessary force to overcome resistance, to affect an arrest, or to protect the officer or any other person during the performance of an officer's duties."Using a less-lethal method such as a Taser is the second-to-last arrest or detainment options. Officers are to first use verbal commands; then physical, pressure-point techniques; then intermediate and less-lethal weapons such as batons, mace and Tasers. The final option is lethal force."In the event that physical force is necessary, the officer must exercise reasonable discretion and decide which technique[s] and/or authorized weapon[s] will reasonably de-escalate the incident and bring it under control or stop the physical threat," the department policy says.Another section says that "less-lethal weapons may be used when lower levels of force would be deemed insufficient for the situation or when lower levels of force have been attempted and proven ineffective."
The Aspen Daily News reported that Alexy was taken to the hospital after the Taser affected her breathing. She was then booked on a theft charge at the county jail.Calvano was not at work Tuesday, and Ryerson would not say whether she had been placed on leave or was simply not scheduled to work. A message left at Calvano's home was not returned."If it's a choice between a kick in the knee to disable someone and using the Taser, I'd choose the Taser," one law enforcement official said. "You know they're going to recover from the Taser."Ryerson said it is possible the theft charge could be refiled against Alexy as the investigation progresses.Chad Abraham's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org