It was nearly midnight when Peter McFarland and his wife, Pearl, returned to their Woodacre, Calif., home after an evening out in June 2009. Feeling the effect of a few glasses of wine he'd had that night, McFarland, 64, tripped down some steps on the way to the front door. His wife called the paramedics, and they treated him.
But after that, things went bad in a hurry. For reasons that are not clear, a pair of sheriff's deputies entered the house and insisted that McFarland come to the hospital with them. He repeatedly refused. Finally, an officer stunned McFarland with a Taser four times and took him to jail.
McFarland was charged with disobeying police and resisting arrest, but the charges were thrown out by a judge. Now, McFarland is suing Marin County and the two deputies involved in federal court.
"Emotionally and psychologically I don't know if this is something he will ever get over," says John Scott, McFarland's attorney.
Scott says he hopes McFarland's experience sparks dialogue on the appropriate use of Tasers.
Marin County Sheriff's Department officials did not respond to calls requesting comment. But in a statement to a local television station, they said the decision to use force is never taken lightly: "Deputy sheriffs undergo an extensive amount of ongoing training to ensure those decisions are both appropriate and fall within the guidelines established by law and department policy."
Michelle Diament is a frequent contributor to the AARP Bulletin.