Video of Florida police officers slamming a 15-year-old black boy’s head into the pavement during a trespassing arrest went viral this weekend, sparking outrage from celebrities like Lebron James and Steve Kerr—but one officer involved claims the teen was being “aggressive” and that punching him in the head was nothing more than a “distractionary technique.”
Footage of the encounter shared on social media with the hashtag #JusticeForLucca appears to show the teen, who has been referred to both as “Lucca” and “Delucca” online, reaching down to pick something up off the ground outside a McDonald’s in Tamarac, Florida, while Broward County Sheriff’s deputies handcuff another teen on the ground.
An officer turned around and confronted Lucca, then pepper sprayed him in the face. As Lucca turned and tried to walk away, the officer grabbed him by the shoulders and slammed him to the ground.
Footage from video taken at a different angle shows another officer jumping on the teen after he’s been pushed to the ground. The officer repeatedly slammed the boy’s head into the pavement, before punching him once in the head. The teen then lay motionless, one arm sticking out, while bystanders screamed “what are you doing?” and “he’s bleeding!”
Photos taken after the encounter show the lower right side of the teen’s face drenched in blood.
Broward County Mayor Mark Bogan tweeted Friday that the officer’s conduct was “outrageous & unacceptable,” adding: “The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired.”
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
Video of the encounter went viral over the weekend, after celebrities like LeBron James, Steve Kerr, and David Hogg condemned the officers involved. “So wrong!! Hurts me to my soul!!” James wrote on Twitter. “To think that could be my sons. Scary times man.”
“What the hell is wrong with our country?” Kerr wrote. “This is insane yet routine. So demoralizing.”
“It’s interesting how everyone in Parkland and Broward was calling out local law enforcement a couple of months ago,” wrote David Hogg, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland. “But now the black and brown youth are being brutally assaulted in school by the same police 15 min away. COMPLETE silence…”
In the aftermath of the attack, Sheriff Gregory Tony promised a “thorough investigation” of the matter in a video press release. He also announced that one of the officers involved, Christopher Krickovich, would be placed on administrative leave for use of force.
In an arrest warrant affidavit cited by BuzzFeed News, Krickovich offered his side of the story. He wrote that students often fought in the plaza after school, and that the day before the arrest, there had been a large fight that resulted in damage to an innocent bystander’s property.
After spotting a fight on Thursday, Krickovich wrote, he and other officers saw a teen trespassing who had been involved in the previous day’s activity. The student was placed in custody “without incident”—but when that teen’s cell phone fell during the arrest, Lucca allegedly bent down to pick it up.
After Sgt. Greg LaCerra told Lucca to stay back, Krickovich claims, the teen “took an aggressive stance” towards the officer, and “bladed his body and began clenching his fists.” After an officer pepper sprayed the teen and forced him to the ground, Krickovich said he jumped on the boy and “pushed down [...] to ensure my full weight was on his person so he could not attempt to take flight or fight us.”
“Again, the three of us were outnumbered by the large group of students who were yelling, threatening us, and surrounding us,” Krickovich wrote. “I had to act quickly, fearing I would get struck or having a student potentially grab weapons off my belt or vest.”
After the teen moved his right arm under his head to protect his face from getting slammed into the pavement, Krickovich added, “I struck [him] in the right side of his head with a closed fist as a distractionary technique to free his right hand.”
During a pre-planned meeting with the Broward County Black Elected Officials group on Saturday, Sheriff Tony attempted to quell the outcry.
“That’s the most electrifying and dangerous situation for a law enforcement administrator to handle,” Tony said. “Any time a white deputy is involved in contact with using force on a black youth, this thing blows up.”
He added that despite the furor against the officers, he can’t fire them. “There’s been a large cry of just go out and fire them. Just get rid of them,” he said. “You all know it doesn't work like that. It's going to be done the right way.”