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Saturday, July 22, 2017

UPDATE: Police seek charges after teens film, mock drowning man, in Cocoa Florida mayor says

A group of teenagers mocked and laughed as Jamel Dunn, 32, drowned July 9 in Cocoa, Fla., after an argument with his fiancee. (Taylor Turner/The Washington Post)

The Washington Post:

 Teenagers who filmed and laughed as a man drowned but did nothing to help could face criminal charges after national media attention and a community enraged by the tragedy sparked demands of justice. 

Henry Parrish III, the mayor of Cocoa, Fla., announced Friday that police will seek first-degree misdemeanor charges under a little-known statute for anyone who fails to report a death.

 “What we’ve all witnessed here does not represent the citizens of our community,” Parrish said in a statement.

 “This is an isolated act of unspeakable inhumanity and in no way is a reflection of our community.” Jamel Dunn, 32, drowned July 9 in Cocoa, a coastal city east of Orlando.

The teenagers, ages 14 to 16, filmed the incident as they laughed and mocked Dunn, then posted the video to social media. The video, which police called “extremely disturbing,” was found by detectives and handed over to Brevard County state attorney Phil Archer, who released the video.

 “Get out the water, ‘Yo,’ ” one of the teens shouts to a disabled man whom his friends are watching struggle fully clothed in a fenced-in pond. “You shouldn’t have gone in,” says another.

 The kids laugh. “He keeps putting his head under,” another says. “Wow.”
Once the group realizes the weight of the situation, one of the boys prods another.

 “Bro, you scared to see a dead person?” he asks. Police said that the teens didn’t attempt to help Dunn as he struggled and screamed.

 “They didn’t call the police. They just laughed the whole time. He was just screaming … for someone to help him,”

Yvonne Martinez, spokeswoman for the Cocoa Police Department, told Florida Today, which posted only audio of the incident.

  Archer’s office asked that the gruesome 2 ½-minute video not be published “in whole or in part” out of deference to family members.

 Martinez told The Post that the police department has been flooded with calls and emails from local community members and beyond.

 “They want to blame someone. They want to hold someone accountable,” she said. After the outcry, Archer’s office and the police circled back on a statute that came up in the initial discussion.

“It may apply, so we’re going to go head and pursue that,” Martinez said, adding that Archer’s office will make the determination to move ahead with charges.

Martinez also said it was possible that police associations in Florida would push state legislators to re-create a law regulating the failure to render aid. Parrish’s statement seemed to touch on that aspect of the incident, which has been at the center of the controversy.

“May this tragic incident, which has shocked all of us, cause each of us to examine ourselves and our responsibility to one another,” he said.

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