The New Hanover County Sheriff’s office had a neat idea of how to arrest Gladwyn Taft Russ III, 42, for threatening his wife. When his father died, they waited until he was putting the casket in the hearse on the way to the cemetery and swooped in to grab him. When they ended up kneeing him in the back and tasering him in front of the shocked mourners, who said that the officers pointed guns and tasers at them. The family canceled the trip to the cemetery.
Threatening one’s wife is a serious offense. However, this does not appear to have been a drug kingpin with an array of safe houses. If they could easily locate him at the funeral, decent people would have waited for the end of the funeral to carry out the arrest at a minimum. Instead the North Carolina Sheriff’s office turned the funeral into a chaotic scene — during which the gun of one of the officers actually fell out of his holster.
Russ’ sister, Taffy Gause, said when she got out of the car a deputy “was waving a gun at me and my mom and yelling to get back or he was going to shoot.”
Russ was charged with assault on a government official, resisting an officer, disorderly conduct and felony malicious conduct by a prisoner. What discipline will be meted out to the officers who ordered this arrest? While the office has apologized, this is a horrendous act by officers who cared little about the family grief or the occasion. Not only was the act senseless and cruel, it virtually guaranteed a hostile reaction from any grieving family and crowd to watch officer interrupt a funeral in such a brutish manner.