‘It was horrific for us’: Family of 6-year-old girl arrested sues city of Orlando, officers

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tuesday marks four years since a 6-year-old Orlando girl was arrested after her family said she had a tantrum in her classroom.

The body cam video received national attention, showing Kaia Rolle being arrested for misdemeanor battery and escorted in tears to the back of a patrol car by Orlando police officers.


Rolle’s family announced Monday in a news conference they plan to move forward with legal action—while also asking for more change at the state level.

The family filed an amended complaint in their lawsuit against the city of Orlando, former Chief Orlando Rolon and officers involved in the arrest. The lawsuit alleges 6-year-old Kaia Rolle’s civil rights were violated, that she was falsely arrested in September 2019 and that the officers used excessive force.

“It was horrific for us,” said Meralyn Kirkland, Kaia’s grandmother.

In amended portion of the suit, the family alleges the city of Orlando’s practices and policies, including the hiring and training of these officers, allowed for Kaia’s arrest.

“I’ve never seen a child with her hands bound at the age of six, walked out by a man three times the size of her,” said the family’s lawyer, Bobby DiCello.

School Resource Officer Dennis Turner was terminated by Orlando Police in September 2019, shortly after Kaia’s arrest.

Kirkland said Kaia still struggles emotionally from the impacts of the arrest.

“Kaia is no longer the Kaia I know. But Kaia is a fighter,” Kirkland said.

The family along with the Southern Poverty Law Center is asking the Florida legislators to amend the law in the child’s name, Kaia Rolle Act.

In 2021, the law took effect, prohibiting a child younger than 7 years old from being arrested or charged with a violation of law, with the exception of a forcible felony.

The family says the age limit should be raised to at least 14.

“Life has not yet given them the experiences to form the criminal intent or process the mental capacity and competency to have the same level of copiability,” said Bacardi Jackson, interim deputy legal director for children’s rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

According to data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, 2,085 children under the age of 12 were detained in Florida last fiscal year. It made up about 5 percent of juvenile arrests.

Kirkland says the law in her granddaughter’s name no longer protects her. She aged-out of the law just months after it passed.

“If there is any way I can prevent even a handful, one other child, from suffering what Kaia suffered, one other family from what our family endured, I would feel good about it,” Kirkland said.

Channel 9 reached out to the City of Orlando for comment, but the city declined, citing pending litigation.

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