COCOA (CBSMiami) — Five teenagers who filmed and taunted a drowning man in a central Florida pond could face charges, Cocoa Police announced Friday.
The department said they were pursuing misdemeanor charges against the teens, between 14 and 18, for a “failure to report a death under Florida Statute 406.12.”
It could be a first.
“When we initially reviewed this case it was determined there were no laws broken as the teens were not directly involved with the death,” said Chief Mike Cantaloupe. “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.”
It’s not totally clear why Jamel Dunn, 31, who’s said to be disabled, got into the water on July 9th.
The teenagers watched him get in as they sat on the bank of the pond allegedly smoking marijuana. Moments later, Dunn struggled to stay afloat.
“Get out the water, you’re going to die,” one of them first shouted with concern.
Their young minds, however, baffled by Dunn’s critical predicament, quickly turn from surprise to mockery.
“We’re not gonna help your ass! Shouldn’t have got in,” another shouts.
Warning! Viewers may find the recording disturbing!
Reports indicated that Dunn had an argument with his family and fiancée just before he walked out to the pond and entered the water at Bracco Park.
“It broke my heart for someone to just sit there, of age, to know if someone needs help – they’re crying out for help in the video – and you just do nothing,” said Rondanielle Willams, Dunn’s fiancée. “How could nothing in your heart tell you not to do anything when someone’s crying out for help and you’re telling them you’re not going to help them?”
After Dunn disappeared underwater, the teens left and did not report what they saw. Some time later, the video recording was uploaded to the internet.
Dunn’s body was recovered five days later after a passerby noticed him floating in the water.
“Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his decision to enter the water that day, there is absolutely no justification for what the teens did,” Chief Cantaloupe added. “Pursuing criminal charges is a way to hold them accountable for their own actions.”
Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish III implored the State Attorney’s Office to follow through and file the charges presented by the police department.
“While this in no way will bring justice for what occurred, it is a start,” he said. “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.”