CORAL SPRINGS, FLA. (WSVN) – The mother and attorney of a teenage girl who was captured on cellphone video being beaten by an officer outside of a mall in Coral Springs are speaking out on the controversial arrest, but officials said the viral clip doesn’t tell the whole story.
The video, recorded Thursday at Coral Square Mall, shows the 14-year-old girl face down on the ground, on top of her hands, as two Coral Springs Police officers try to handcuff her. During the confrontation, an officer is seen punching the girl twice in the ribs.
“Why are you hitting her?” a girl is heard screaming in the video. “She can’t do it. She can’t do that. Her hands underneath her.”
The video has many in the community in an uproar. The teen’s mother, Jessica Dennis, spoke with 7News about the incident on Friday.
“I’m angry. I would never expect this to happen,” she said.
Dennis said the daughter is not seen in the video fighting back.
“She clearly wasn’t aggressive. Everyone could see she was laying there,” she said, “so I just want justice to be served.”
Dennis and her daughter have hired attorney Meeghan Moldof, who said the officer used excessive force during the arrest.
“It’s clear from the video that my client was on the ground. Her hands are under her belly, the officer’s knees are on her back, and he’s just gut-shotting her, like one after another,” said Moldof.
However, investigators said the video only shows the end of the story.
Detectives said, due to early release from school, there were large groups of teens at the Coral Square mall on Thursday. The situation began after officers received a call about unruly teens who had been harassing and cursing other shoppers.
“In one case, they actually were reported to have knocked over a small child, a 5-year-old child,” said Coral Springs Police Deputy Chief Brad McKeone.
Police said the 14-year-old was seen pushing another teen. She and the other teens were issued a trespass warning and told not to return.
Investigators said most of the teens left, but some stayed, including the girl seen on the video.
After a teenage boy was arrested, police said, the girl in the video began cursing and trying to incite the other teens.
A statement issued by Coral Springs Police reads, “Officers attempted to take her into custody, at which time she began to fight and resist arrest. Due to her stature and aggressive behavior, officers took her to the ground attempting to get her to release her fists. As seen in the video, she resisted arrest, and in order to have her comply, she was struck in the side to release her clenched fists.”
“What you see on video is the officer delivering some strikes, distraction strikes to an area where she has her hands concealed underneath her,” said McKeone. “The officers don’t know what she may have in her possession. That’s a concern.”
The teen was then taken into custody. Shortly after, police said, she kicked a female officer in the stomach.
McKeone said the actions of the officer in the video were not excessive.
“The officers didn’t go there to take anybody into custody,” he said. “They went there for juvenile disturbance. They went there to restore some peace and order to the mall.”
But Moldof said the teen’s behavior does not justify the officer’s actions.
“To say that the police officer was justified to punch her continuously while he has his knees on her back and her hands around her belly, the video speaks for itself,” she said. “That’s the truth right there.”
Dennis said the video was difficult for her to watch.
“I really couldn’t keep watching it. It was just too much, because it just makes you angry,” she said. “I mean, I was heartbroken.”
The incident has caused the concerned mother to become disillusioned with local police.
“I can’t trust them anymore. Like I don’t feel safe in the area,” she said.
The teen is facing three separate charges. She was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Her family has hired two attorneys to deal with the criminal and civil cases.
Police would like to speak with more witnesses and watch any other cellphone video of the incident that may have been recorded. If you think you can help investigators in this case, call Coral Springs Police at 954-344-1800.
Police chief defends officer after controversial video of 12-year-old’s arrested trying to sell CDs
COBB COUNTY, Ga. – The Cobb County Police chief says he’s opened an internal investigation after an officer was caught on camera arresting a 12-year-old rapper.
Numerous Channel 2 Action News viewers shared the now-viral video with us and criticized the officer for being unnecessarily harsh on a child.
Channel 2’s Tom Jones spoke exclusively with Chief Michael Register, who said his officer didn’t do anything wrong.
Register said there is more to the story than what was caught on camera. But he says because he’s gotten countless phone calls and complaints, he opened an investigation into the incident.
“Does he have a right to put his hands on that child?” Jones asked Register.
“He was within his rights,” Register said.
The child on the video is Corey Jackson, who also goes by Lil C-Note. Jackson is a young rapper who is well known for trying to sell his CDs at local businesses.
The mall considers that trespassing. Chief Register said the mall had given Jackson a criminal trespass warning and told him twice he couldn’t sell CDs on the property.
When a mall security guard caught him in the act on Oct. 6, Register said Jackson became combative so they called over an off-duty police officer. The officer said Jackson tried to bend the officer’s fingers back and push or punch him in the chest.
That part of the confrontation didn’t end up on video, Register said.
What did end up on video was the officer appearing to squeeze Jackson by the arm and argue with him.
“You’re 12?” the officer is heard asking the boy. “You’re about to go to jail. You’re going to go to a youth detention center if you don’t [inaudible].”
Jackson argued back.
“He told the police officer, ‘I don’t have to speak with you. I know my rights,'” Register said.
The camera is jostled as an apparent altercation breaks out and the video ends with the officer calling in the incident as another officer restrains Jackson.
With help from journalism students, Miami man freed after 12 years behind bars for murder
One month after a judge ordered a new trial and cast doubt on the evidence against him for murder, Andre Gonzalez is a free man.
Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped the case against Gonzalez, who spent 12 years behind bars for a murder outside a North Miami-Dade nightclub, a killing his defense lawyers said he did not commit. Gonzalez, who was also known in court records by the alias Tony Brown, walked out of jail just before noon.
“The sun and the breeze just felt so wonderful, knowing I’m walking on real pavement,” Gonzalez said of walking out of jail. “It’s been such a long time and hard struggle. It’s a wonderful feeling right now.”
Gonzalez, 46, said he plans to reunite with his four children and his fiancée. He isn’t sure what his future holds. “I’m just trying to let it all sink in,” he said.
His freedom came thanks to students from the Medill Justice Project at Northwestern University, who interviewed a prison inmate that admitted Gonzalez was not the killer. The inmate, Arnold Clark, later testified in court that his friend, a DJ at the club that night, was the actual killer, not Gonzalez.
In September, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Miguel de la O agreed with the defense, casting doubt on the state’s key eyewitness and the significance of DNA found on a cap found at the crime scene. He ordered the conviction reversed — and that Gonzalez be given a new trial.
“[Gonzalez] presented credible, admissible evidence demonstrating that the crimes of which he was convicted may very well have been committed by another,” De la O wrote in his order.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, however, “disagrees with this conclusion” and says the judge ignored key evidence — including that the supposed real gunman “was too short to be the assailant,” according to a final memo released on Tuesday.
But prosecutors decided to drop the case because Michael Morris, the surviving victim and key eyewitness, is in a “very fragile state and questions his ability to withstand another trial.” Also, the victim’s DNA has long been destroyed, meaning it can’t be tested on items that might refute Clark’s story, prosecutor Chiaka Ihekwaba wrote in the memo.
“The state of Florida, in no way, believes that this defendant is innocent of the crime,” she wrote.
At Gonzalez’s original trial, prosecutors maintained that he was the one who shot and killed Nigel Whatley during a robbery and scuffle outside the Players Club in October 2005. A surviving victim, Michael Morris, who was wounded in the robbery, identified Gonzalez as the attacker.
But Morris told police he was only “60 percent” certain the attacker was Gonzalez, who also went by the name Andre Gonzalez. Defense lawyers said Miami-Dade police homicide detectives mishandled the photo lineup when interviewing the surviving victim.
Other key evidence was Gonzalez’s DNA, which was discovered on a black skull cap discarded near Whatley’s body, a cap Morris later claimed the gunman wore during the robbery. During the trial, Gonzalez’s girlfriend testified she was with him at the club that night, but took no part in the killing.
His defense lawyers suggested that Gonzalez dropped his cap in the parking lot that night, and detectives planted the idea of the gunman wearing the cap in the mind of the eyewitness. Judge de la O agreed, saying Morris never mentioned the gunman wore a cap until nine months after the shooting.
Jurors in 2010 originally found Gonzalez guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder and armed robbery. He was sentenced to life in prison. Afterward, a Miami-Dade judge granted a request for a new trial, but the decision later was overturned by an appeals court.
As for Clark, he said he initially refused to testify at the time of the crime for fear of reprisals from the nightclub, or the real killer.