In what police called an “extremely disturbing” incident, a group of Cocoa, Florida teens will likely not face charges for mocking and laughing at a 32-year-old disabled man as he drowned last week in a fenced-off pond.
Prosecutors say there is little they can do to punish the teens because Florida’s so-called Good Samaritan law doesn’t stipulate criminal or civil liability if someone chooses not to help a person in peril.
However, on Friday afternoon, the police announced they would file misdemeanor charges against the five teens for not reporting a dead body.
The body of James Dunn was pulled from a pond three days after the drowning incident, according to Florida Today. Police ruled out foul play, writing the incident off as an unfortunate accident.
But last weekend, a minute-long video appeared on social media depicting a group of teens mocking, cursing and laughing at Dunn, who is seen in the video screaming for help in the distance. Two of the teens, who were not identified because they are minors, are seen in the video.
“Ain’t nobody fixing to help you, you dumb [expletive],” one of the teens shouted as Dunn sank into the murky water.
“Oh, he just died,” said another teen as the others laughed.
The youths were later identified and questions by detectives, who said they lacked remorse. The mother of one of the teens broke down in tears while her son stared blankly ahead while being questioned.
Dunn’s sister said she could understand not wanting to dive into the water – Florida is an alligator-infested state – but she lamented the fact that none of teens called 9-1-1, instead choosing to mock the drowning man.
Local prosecutors said they couldn’t file charges against the teens for not trying to save Dunn because there was nothing in the state’s Good Samaritan laws that would have been applicable.
Good Samaritan laws are common, but they vary in their articulation. In some cases, people can be held liable for not doing what they can to save someone in peril. In other states, like Florida, the protection extends to preventing people from being held liable for any results of trying to save someone’s life.