Prosecutors say they are investigating a group of teenagers who laughed as they watched a man drown in Florida, after police previously said they had no case against the kids.
Five teens filmed Jamel Dunn calling for help in the middle of a pond in Cocoa, Florida, and then posted the video to Facebook. They did not call 911 or help Dunn, who was physically disabled, police say. They can be heard mocking and yelling at Dunn in the video, cops added. Five days later, Dunn’s body was found floating in the pond.
Police said even after interviewing the teens, ages 14 to 18, there were no grounds to charge them because Florida law carries no obligation for bystanders to help someone in distress. Now the Cocoa Police Department said the teens may be charged with a misdemeanor that requires those who witness a death to report it to a medical examiner. The charge carries a $1,000 fine.
“Further research of the statutes and consultation with the State Attorney’s Office yielded the decision to move forward with charges under this statute,” Cocoa Police Chief Mike Cantaloupe said in a statement on Friday. “It’s our belief that this law has never been enforced in a scenario like this, but we feel it could be applicable.”
The Brevard County State’s Attorney Office told The Daily Beast they plan to investigate the incident and have requested evidence from the police.
A police spokeswoman said at least one of the teens involved showed no remorse while being interviewed by detectives, CNN reported. Dunn’s sister Simone Scott said she was told by police at least one of the teens wanted to call 911, but didn’t because of peer pressure or because they were afraid of getting in trouble for smoking weed.
After police showed Dunn’s family surveillance footage revealing he willingly entered the pond, Scott said she didn’t care what his reasons were for getting in the pond that day—and said others shouldn’t judge either. The onlookers could have saved his life, Scott said, and should face the consequences for that.
“Y’all watched someone die who was crying out for help. Regardless of how he got in there, he was crying out for help and no one took the initiative to do anything,” Scott said in a video. “I feel like something should be done to them. I don’t care if it’s probation—it needs to be an eye-opener, a lesson learned. If they can sit there and watch someone die before their eyes, imagine how they’re going to be when they get older.”
Dunn has two daughters, 11-year-old Amyah and 6-year-old Zeharra. His sister created a GoFundMe in Dunn’s name that raised over $35,000, some of which will go to caring for his children. A longtime Florida resident, Dunn was honored at a candle lighting ceremony last week where family and friends gathered to celebrate his life. Community members are also coming together in an effort to potentially save other lives by petitioning government officials to enact a good samaritan law in Florida.
Scott said she wants to turn something negative into something positive.
“I just wasn’t going to let this one get swept under the mat, or be just another African American dead,” she said.