In a case that has sparked moral outrage and frustration with the legal system, CNN reported Friday that a group of teenage boys who filmed and even taunted a man as he drowned will not face charges.
On Saturday, July 9, five teen boys — aged 14 to 16 — filmed 31-year-old Jamel Dunn for more than two minutes as he struggled to stay afloat in a pond near his home in Cocoa, Florida. The teens can be heard laughing in the footage, even at the point of Dunn’s final breaths, all while knowing full well the gravity of the situation.
From CNN: “The teens can be heard warning the man that he was ‘going to die’ and they were not going to help him. At one point, one of the teen boys can be heard laughing, saying ‘he dead.’”
The teens didn’t bother to alert authorities about the incident, and by July 12 Dunn’s family had filed a missing person’s report. Jamel Dunn’s body was recovered from the pond two days later.
Currently, there are no laws on Florida’s books that require citizens to aid someone in distress. Lamenting that fact, Cocoa Police Department spokesperson Yvonne Martinez told CNN that legally, the justice system’s hands are tied.
“The family is frustrated…the detectives are frustrated, that we cannot hold anyone accountable for this,” she said. “No one deserves to go like that.”
The state’s attorney’s office echoed Martinez’s sentiment in a statement, saying it is “deeply shocked and saddened” by the whole affair but that no legal action can be taken:
“While the incident depicted on the recording does not give rise to sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution under Florida statutes, we can find no moral justification for either the behavior of persons heard on the recording or the deliberate decision not to render aid to Mr. Dunn.”
Cocoa police chief Mike Cantaloupe feels similarly and said Jamel Dunn’s case “may be what’s needed to pass new laws.”
But it’s the total lack of compassion that really gets to Martinez, who told CNN “at least one of the teens expressed no remorse while being interviewed by detectives.” She points to the fact that none of the teens reported the incident as further evidence of the coldness on display.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, probably 20 years or more,” she says. “I was horrified. My jaw dropped.”Martinez added that “to sit there and to laugh and humiliate this person” while they’re dying “is beyond my comprehension.”
Without specifying how, CNN reported that Dunn’s sister, Simone Scott, received the video on Saturday, July 15 — one week after Jamel’s drowning. Scott subsequently posted the footage on Facebook. On Thursday, she did a Facebook Live stream in which she questioned the type of men these teenage boys will become:
“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?”