A Florida state trooper profiled and then used excessive force when he fired a stun gun at a teenager waiting in his girlfriend’s back yard to see her, the boy’s mother said Wednesday.
Kristina Rodeman’s son Jack, 16, who she said was biracial, was in his girlfriend’s backyard in Fort Myers on June 16 when a Florida Highway Patrol soldier was seen on a private video asking the teen to to put his hands behind his back.
When Jack ignores the order, the soldier gropes him, and the boy falls and hits a fireplace with his head and back.
“He was profiled for being black in black clothes. I have no doubt, ”said Rodeman. “He didn’t do anything wrong. He literally just went down the street to see his girlfriend. “
Pictures of the incident, captured in a video provided to Rodeman by Jack’s friend’s family, caused her to “lose breath,” she said. “When I saw the video, I thought, ‘Oh my god. It hurt my heart. ‘”
Highway patrol officials failed to respond to multiple requests for comment on Wednesday. NBC subsidiary WBBH in Fort Myers reported that the department is conducting an internal investigation.
Rodeman provided NBC News with the likely cause of the police officer who arrested her son last week.
The soldier was identified in the report as George Smyrnios. In his report, the soldier said the teenager was wearing suspicious clothing when he turned into a private neighborhood called Timber Lake.
“I saw the defendant (a suspect) in black pants, black sweater / hoodie, and black tennis shoes,” the probable cause report said. Smyrnios wrote that the teenager saw his patrol vehicle, flew away and hid in the thick bushes, which made him even more suspicious. The teenager went to a backyard, the report says.
“His demeanor, demeanor and body language seemed like a burglar. To me it looked like he had just committed a crime or was about to commit a crime, ”wrote Smyrnios.
The soldier then gestured for the teenager to come to him. The boy said no, the report was. Smyrnios asked again, telling the teenager that he was a police officer.
The teen went into another back yard and Smyrnios then pulled out his taser and told the teen that if he didn’t stick to it, he would use it against him.
“The red dots were placed on his back and I used the taser. The probes hit his upper right shoulder and upper right buttock, ”wrote Smyrnios. “The defendant fell to the ground. I told him to put his hands behind his back. He didn’t stick to it, so I activated the taser again, ”said the explanation of the likely cause.
Jack was arrested and charged with disobeying a lawful order, resisting nonviolently, and possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana, Smyrnios’ report said.
The report and Rodeman said Jack took a bottle of their prescription marijuana without permission.
Jack’s attorney, Derek Tyler, said it was unclear how many times Smyrnios fired the stun gun, but Jack said it was four times.
“That was totally unjustified and I think torture is about to happen,” Tyler said. “There is no justification for his actions.”
Jack was held in a juvenile prison after his arrest and suffered back pain after falling on the fire pit, Tyler said.
The route the teen took to get to his girlfriend’s house was the same one he had taken every day cutting through the bushes, Tyler said.
Brian Higgins, a retired police chief for the former Bergen County Police Department in New Jersey, said the video showed several questionable decisions by the soldier and that he had used the gun unnecessarily.
Higgins, who is also a senior lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, said the soldier used the weapon unnecessarily.
“The taser was originally developed as another option to avoid the use of deadly force,” said Higgins, a lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. “It wasn’t meant to be used as a weapon to make sure someone would obey your orders.
“There is no ongoing struggle,” he continued. “There is no threat of a weapon or other use of force.”
The soldier was not allowed to pat the teen a second time while he was on the ground in pain, Higgins said.
“To hit him a second time there should be a valid reason for it,” he said. “Is it just the boy not fast enough? It had just been scanned. “
Rodeman visited her son in the detention center on Wednesday and said the ordeal was difficult for him and her family.
“Last night I just fell apart and today I just fall apart,” she said and started to cry. “I hate it when someone loses their job. But what he was doing was wrong. “I want justice for my son.”