COCOA, Fla. - A Florida state legislator is planning to draft a good Samaritan bill that would make it a crime not to render aid to someone in need, after five teens were accused of taking cellphone video of a drowning man in Cocoa.
The teens, who police said did nothing to help a drowning man and instead recorded the incident and mocked him, may now face charges, Cocoa police said.
At first, the five suspects, who range in age from 14 and 18, were not going to be charged in connection with 31-year-old Jamel Dunn’s death.
Investigators were told by the State Attorney’s Office that while there was no moral justification for the July 9 incident at Bracco Pond Park, there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution under Florida statutes.
State Sen. Debbie Mayfield is planning to change that with a law that would be similar to ones already in place in Vermont, Rhode Island and Minnesota.
The bill wouldn't be about punishment as much as it would be about doing the right thing, Mayfield said.
"You don't want to put a youth in jail," she said. "That might harm them and hurt them for the rest of their life.
"You want them to know what's right and wrong."
Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, though, said that not everyone who has contacted him wants to see a law enacted in reaction to Dunn's death.
"People are saying, 'You got enough laws. You can't legislate stupid,'" he said, noting that he's heard from plenty of people who wouldn't mind a law. "The other half are like, 'Throw people in jail.'"
Dunn’s body wasn’t found until July 14 when a passerby saw his body floating in the pond.
Police may recommend charges against the teens under Florida Statute 406.12, which says a person who witnesses a death must report it to a medical examiner.
Police said it’s a misdemeanor charge that hasn’t been applied in a case like this.
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