COCOA, Fla. — The teenagers 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.
Dunn’s body wasn’t found until July 14 when a passerby saw his body floating in the pond.
Police announced Friday that they would be able to 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.
“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.”
The State Attorney’s Office will decide whether a case is filed.
In the video, police said the group of teenage boys can be heard yelling such things as, “We’re not going to help you and you never should have gotten in there,” as Dunn screamed for help and struggled in the water.
One of the teenagers mentioned marijuana in the nearly three-minute video.
Police said video evidence showed that Dunn went into the water on his own.
A neighbor’s security camera showed Dunn scaling a fence and intentionally going into the pond, police said.
“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.”
Their identities of the suspects have not been released.
Dunn's sister, Simone McIntosh, said she is planning to push the Florida Legislature to enact a law that would make a situation like her brother's death a felony offense.
"I'm hoping to get a petition, or some kind of legislation, started, and I would like to call it Dunn's Right to Duty," she said. "You should be obligated to help or either get help for them."
Statement from Mayor Henry Parrish:
"As mayor of this great city it saddens me to the core to watch video shot by a group of kids watching a man drown and doing nothing to help him. There just are no words to describe the lack of conscience within these young people.
As of today, our police department, working in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office, has decided to pursue the application of criminal charges against these individuals under a little known Florida Statute that in short requires a person to report a death (FS 406.12). While this in no way will bring justice for what occurred, it is a start. 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.
In a case like this we struggle to understand how anyone could be so cold and heartless and then learn that in our great state of Florida there are no laws 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. I like to believe there is good in all people. What we’ve all witnessed here does not represent the citizens of our community. This is an isolated act of unspeakable inhumaneness and does not depict who we are as a community. The people of this city are loving and caring and help each other. We celebrate together, we grieve together and we make positive changes TOGETHER. I want to encourage you to be part of the solutions for the problems we all face as a city and as a nation. If this case can be used as an example to draft new legislation, then I am committed to move forward to make that happen.
I want to extend my deepest condolences to Mr. Dunn’s family and friends. My hope is we all come together to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else."