After the state attorney’s office initially claimed that no laws had been broken, the Cocoa police department in central Florida now says criminal charges against a group of teens who mocked and filmed a disabled man as he drowned in a pond will be pursued. While Florida has no law on the books requiring bystanders to render aid, there is a law on the books requiring citizens to report deaths to authorities.
The group of Florida teens in question reportedly watched and recorded 31-year-old Jamel Dunn as he struggled and ultimately drowned, mocking and taunting the man in his final moments. The teens have not been publicly identified, but range in age from 14- to 18-years-old, reports NBC News, and were ultimately interviewed by police following the July 9 drowning, which took place in a city park along a walking trail.
As Dunn frenziedly attempted to keep himself above water, the Florida teens could be heard making unthinkable and callous remarks behind the camera as they recorded the apparent stranger’s death.
“Yeah b***h you shoulda never got in there!
“Let him drown, what the heck.”
Dunn’s remains were not found until July 14, when a citizen saw his body floating in the water. Authorities were reportedly unaware of the video until after Jamal Dunn’s “badly decomposed” body was found, and initially had declined to press criminal charges, claiming that while the teens’ behavior was not moral, it was also not illegal.
“While the incident depicted on the recording does not give rise to sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution under Florida statutes, we can find no moral justification for either the behavior of persons heard on the recording or the deliberate decision not to render aid to Mr. Dunn.”
After the case of the Florida teens mocking and recording Dunn as he drowned went viral, however, public outrage became almost instantaneously widespread. On Friday, the Cocoa police department took to Facebook to announce that criminal charges against the five teens will be pursued.
The criminal charges that will be filed against the teens, however, will have nothing to do with homicide, manslaughter, murder, or even not rendering aid. Rather, the Cocoa police department plans to charge the Florida teens under Florida Statute 406, which requires known deaths be reported to the district medical examiner. Noncompliance with the statute, a first-degree misdemeanor, can result in a maximum sentence of a $1,000 fine, reports NBC News.
The statute was invoked in a case like this, but Cocoa Police Chief Mike Cantaloupe believes that it’s applicable to the case of the seemingly remorseless Florida teens, who so cavalierly laughed as they watched Jamal Dunn die.
Is this about the teens in Florida that taped & watched disable guy drown? Yeah they need severe help… W/electrocution as option.
— Angelfyre (@Angelfyre7928) July 22, 2017
There has to be something that they can charge them with & get them mental health help! What kind of adults will they be?!? Need help!
— Carrie (@carrieleelily) July 22, 2017
Alought it's highly despicable, there is no law against this. Like to see how it plays out.
— K (@skipthequip) July 22, 2017
What is wrong with society ? Those teens need psychological help.
— Lorne Clarke (@Lorne1868) July 22, 2017
“Further research of the statutes and consultation with the State Attorney’s Office yielded the decision to move forward with charges under this statute. It’s our belief that this law has never been enforced in a scenario like this, but we feel it could be applicable.”
Rondanielle Williams, fiance of the late Mr. Dunn, agrees that the teens who watched Jamal die without rendering aid should face criminal charges.
“I think there should be some type of laws put in place that if someone’s asking for help that you should be obligated to at least call 911.”
— NewsOne (@newsone) July 22, 2017
Police have not disclosed how they got their hands on the video made by the five Florida teens now facing criminal charges related to the death of Jamal Dunn. They have, however, confirmed that the 31-year-old did enter the water willingly and of his own accord before his death. Chief Cantaloupe alleges that there is “no justification” for the teens’ behavior.
“Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his decision to enter the water that day, there is absolutely no justification for what the teens did. Pursuing criminal charges is a way to hold them accountable for their own actions.”
In addition to announcing that criminal charges would be pursed against the Florida teens who recorded and taunted a disabled man while he drowned, Cocoa Police Chief Cantaloupe is also hoping that the case will prompt new legislation to help prevent situations like this in the future.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 22, 2017
“I would like to something that when there is a horrific case or something of this magnitude that there would be some sort of legislation or some sort of law that would require the reporting to law enforcement or to somebody.“
It is not believed that any of the five teens involved in the recording of Dunn’s death had prior criminal records.
[Featured Image by Simone Scott/Facebook]