COCOA, Fla. — Five Florida teenagers who taunted a disabled man as they watched him drown will be charged after all as authorities have been able to find a statute that they believe will be applicable to the teens’ actions.
The Cocoa Police Department and the office of Brevard County State Attorney Phil Archer have concluded that the teens will be charged under Florida Statute 406.12, which pertains to failure to report a death.
“When we initially reviewed this case, it was determined there were no laws broken as the teens were not directly involved with the death,” Cocoa Police Chief Mike Cantaloupe explained in a statement. “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,” he said.
As previously reported, the incident occurred on July 9, as Jamel Dunn, 32, went out for a walk following an argument with his girlfriend. Dunn used a cane as a walking aid, and for unknown reasons, he waded into the pond at Bracco Park.
Five teenagers, ages 14-16, who had been at the park smoking marijuana, saw Dunn enter the pond. However, instead of answering his cries for help, they began taunting him. One recorded Dunn with his cell phone.
“Get out of the water, you gonna die,” one of the teens called out.
“We’re not going to help your [expletive]. You shouldn’t have got in,” another exclaimed. “Ain’t nobody going to help you, you dumb [expletive].”
Dunn soon went under the water, and one remarked, “Oh, he just died,” to which the youth broke out into laughter. They continued to watch the pond, noting that the man had not resurfaced.
None of the teens called 911 or attempted to help him, but instead uploaded the footage to Facebook.
Dunn’s girlfriend soon reported him missing, and on July 14, a passerby contacted authorities to report a body floating in the pond. A friend of Dunn’s soon also discovered the recording on social media and contacted the police.
The teens were identified and questioned by detectives, but did not express any regret or sorrow.
“There was no remorse, only a smirk,” spokesperson Yvonne Martinez told Florida Today.
While it is not known why Dunn seemingly intentionally entered the water, police state that it does not excuse the actions of the five teenagers.
“Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his decision to enter the water that day, there is absolutely no justification for what the teens did,” Cantaloupe said. “Pursuing criminal charges is a way to hold them accountable for their own actions.”
“While this in no way will bring justice for what occurred, it is a start,” also remarked Mayor Henry Parrish. “I know that everyone working on this investigation has been tireless in their efforts to find answers. Everyone has been affected by what we have seen.”
He said that he had “no words” to describe the “lack of conscience” among the youth, and said that he likes to believe that there is “good in all people.”
“In a case like this we struggle to understand how anyone could be so cold and heartless and then learn that there are no laws in Florida that obligate someone to render aid or call for someone to render aid for a person they see in distress. Never in my life would I have ever thought we would need a law to make this happen,” Parrish lamented.
2 Timothy 1:3-5 exhorts, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Jeremiah 17:9 also instructs, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”