Florida Teens Who Filmed, Mocked Drowning Disabled Man and Didn't Get Help Won't Face Charges
Last summer, instead of helping him, a group of Florida teenagers used a smartphone to film the drowning of a 31-year-old disabled man. The footage shows them appearing to taunt him as he struggles to keep his head above the water in a retention pond in Cocoa.
The footage incited outrage, but on Friday, prosecutors said no criminal charges would be pursued because there is no law on the books requiring citizens assist a person who is injured or in danger.
“I know that everyone was sickened by the callous disregard for human life exhibited by these young people. We can only hope that this was an isolated and rare circumstance that will never happen again,” reads a statement from State Attorney Phil Archer. “Unfortunately, Florida law does not address this behavior and we are ethically restrained from pursuing criminal charges without a reasonable belief of proving a crime beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.”
Jamel Dunn, who was disabled and walked with a cane, can be seen in the footage treading water in the middle of the pond before going under.
The teens — who were all between 14 and 18 — cursed, jeered, and mocked him from the shoreline, calling him a “junkie” and wondering if he was drunk.
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Only one of them voiced concerns about getting help. But authorities say none of them did.
“Ain’t nobody going to help you, you dumb b—-,” one of the teens can be heard on the video, shouting to Dunn. “You shouldn’t have got in there.”
Archer said Friday’s decision followed an extensive investigation by the Cocoa Police Department, the Office of the Brevard Medical Examiner, and the State Attorney’s Office.
His statement notes that “a law intended to address this type of situation was proposed during this year’s legislative session, but failed to receive sufficient support to pass.”
Lawmakers had concerns that “the law could have created unintended consequences such as immunizing statements made in a 911 call, greatly impacting their use in a wide range of other criminal cases,” the statement says.
In addition, officials faced “numerous evidentiary issues involving the actual time of death of Mr. Dunn and the admissibility of the video, both of which complicate the filing of any criminal charge,” according to Archer’s statement.
Dunn was found dead five days after the incident, after his body was reported floating in the pond where he died. He’d been reported missing by his family two days earlier — three days after his drowning.
The video was posted to social media and Dunn’s family shared the footage with police.
A GoFundMe campaign has been created to support Dunn’s young daughters, ages 7 and 12.