By Lianne Kolirin and Hilary Whiteman, CNN
(CNN) – An Australian police officer has been charged with manslaughter after he tasered a 95-year-old woman with dementia in a nursing home.
Clare Nowland, a great-grandmother, died in hospital a week after she was tasered at the home in May.
Police had been called out to the home in Cooma, New South Wales by care staff who reported that a resident was armed with a knife. A 33-year-old senior constable, Kristian White, is alleged to have tasered Nowland at the home after asking her to drop a steak knife she was holding.
Nowland, who had a walking aid, fell and hit her head, fracturing her skull.
White, who has since been suspended from his role with pay, was initially charged with multiple offenses including recklessly causing grievous bodily harm and assault.
In a statement published online on Wednesday, New South Wales Police said: “Following advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad have today laid an additional charge of Manslaughter against a 33-year-old Senior Constable attached to the Monaro Police District.”
According to CNN affiliate Sky News Australia, when staff at the nursing home tried to coax Nowland into handing over the knives she was holding, she threw one at them.
When White and another officer found her, accompanied by ambulance staff, she was in a room holding one of the knives, according to court documents cited by the broadcaster. The other officer attempted to grab the knife, but Nowland is said to have moved towards them with her walker.
White then allegedly pulled out and activated his taser, telling the victim: “Clare, stop now, see this, this is a taser, drop it now, drop it, this is your first warning.”
She then raised the hand holding the knife to chest height, according to the court documents, and he struck her with the taser in the chest area, causing her to fall and hit her head, still holding her walker.
Family friend Andrew Thaler said at the time that before the incident Nowland was frail and unable to stand unaided. She weighed just 43 kilograms (95 pounds) and was 5-foot-2 (1.58 meters) tall and was suffering from dementia.
White, who is due to appear in court on December 6, remains suspended from the force with pay, and has yet to enter a plea.