Florida police will pursue charges against five Florida teens who taunted and videotaped a man as he drowned, according to a statement released on Friday, July 21.
Detectives with the Criminal Investigations Division in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office will prosecute the teens, aged 14-18, under a statute that requires residents to report a death to the medical examiner. The charge is a misdemeanor.
“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 Cocoa Police 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.”
Police said the five teens were near a body of water smoking marijuana on July 9 when they filmed James Dunn, 31, drowning. Instead of calling for help or informing the authorities, they posted the video on YouTube.
In the video, the teens said that the man is going to die, but they won’t help him. The boys laugh at the man and curse at him. When Dunn drowns, the teens laugh.
Warning: the following footage contains disturbing images and language.
Dunn’s family filed a missing persons report on July 13, three days after he drowned. Police recovered his body on July 14 after a passerby called to report a body floating in the pond.
Police said Dunn went into the water willingly. Footage from a neighbor’s security camera shows him scaling a fence on his way to the pond.
At least one of the teens showed no signs of remorse when police interviewed him, KFOR reported. The nature of the incident shocked many police veterans.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, probably 20 years or more … I was horrified. My jaw dropped,” said Cocoa Police Department spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez.
The mayor of the town was also shaken by the contents of the video.
“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,” Mayor Henry Parrish III said in a statement. “There just are no words to describe the lack of conscience within these young people.”
Police did not file charges against the teenagers initially, because there is no law in Florida that requires residents to seek or provide aid to a person in danger. A friend of Dunn’s sister Simone McIntosh started a petition to change the law.
When a person is in danger “you should be obligated to help or to get help for them,” McIntosh told HLN.
McIntosh also wondered why the teens took no action.
“Why didn’t you call for help?” she said. “Why didn’t you make a phone call? All it took was one second and a life could have been saved.”
Police asked the media not to share the video out of respect for Dunn and his family. But his sister encouraged the public to share it.
“I feel like something should be done to (the teens),” Dunn’s sister said in a Facebook Live video she posted on Thursday. “I don’t care if it’s probation or something, it just needs to be an eye-opener. A lesson learned.”
“If they can sit there and watch somebody die in front of their eyes, imagine what they’re going to do when they get older. Where’s the morals?” she asked.