Teenagers Recorded a Drowning Man and Laughed, but Face No Charges – New York Times
The video was shocking in Florida, where shocking videos seem like a genre. A group of teenagers laughed and watched as a man struggled in the water of a pond. The man drowned, and his body was not found for days.
The five teenagers did nothing to help him, not even call 911, but after examining the video the authorities said this week that they did not break the law.
“In the state of Florida, there is no law in place that requires a person to render aid or call to render aid to a victim in distress,” said Yvonne Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Cocoa Police Department, said on Friday. Later in the day, she said the police were continuing to look for other laws that might have been broken.
The man, Jamel Dunn, 31, drowned on July 9, and his body was found five days later when the police received a report that it was floating near the edge of the pond in a local park in Cocoa, a town of 18,000 people near Orlando.
As detectives investigated the death over the weekend, a family member of Mr. Dunn’s alerted them to the video, which the teenagers had begun sharing with friends.
The police asked the office of Phil Archer, the state attorney for Brevard and Seminole counties, to review the footage. But the prosecutor’s office said it did not contain the evidence needed for a criminal prosecution.
In the statement, the prosecutor’s office said it was nonetheless “deeply saddened and shocked” by how Mr. Dunn died and the failure of the teenagers to help him in any way.
The low-quality, 2.5-minute cellphone video, was provided to The Times by Mr. Archer’s office and earlier obtained by Florida Today. It shows a man flailing in the middle of a body of water as the teenagers describe his struggle and laugh at him from the shore of the pond.
One of the teenagers, using an expletive, calls Mr. Dunn a junkie. Someone tells him not to expect any assistance: “Ain’t nobody going to help you, you dumb bitch. You shouldn’t have got in there,” he says.
About a minute into the video, the man appears to let out a whimper before submerging, fully, underwater.
“He just died!” a voice can be heard saying, as the others begin to laugh.
Later, one of the teenagers appears to suggest that they call the police, only to be rejected by another.
The police identified and met with all five, who ranged in age from 14 to 18, Ms. Martinez said. None appeared to show much emotion.
“What I saw was not remorseful,” she said.
A Facebook user named Simone Scott, who identified herself online as Mr. Dunn’s sister, expressed frustration with the investigation and said “something should be done” in a video live-streamed on the social network on Thursday. A funeral service will be held a week from Saturday, Ms. Scott said on Facebook. She did not respond to a request for an interview.
“If they can sit there and watch somebody die in front of their eyes, imagine what they’re going to do when they get older?” she said about the teenagers.
She expressed frustration with the investigation and said she wondered how Mr. Dunn, who she said was disabled and walked with a cane, ended up in the middle of the pond.
Surveillance footage obtained on Thursday from a neighbor showed that Mr. Dunn entered the pond on his own and did not appear to be coerced or forced to go in, Ms. Martinez said.
Although the teenagers cannot be charged for failing to help Mr. Dunn, town officials said later Friday that they were weighing other options. They believe a different Florida law requires any person who is aware of a death to report it, and they will ask the state prosecutor to consider charging them under that law.
“While this in no way will bring justice for what occurred, it is a start,” Henry Parrish, III, the mayor of Cocoa, said in a statement. “I know that everyone working on this investigation has been tireless in their efforts to find answers.”
Powered by WPeMatico