Update, April 23, 3:05 p.m.: The Broward Sheriff's Office announced this afternoon that Sgt. Gregory LaCerra has been placed on restricted administrative assignment pending the investigation, meaning he is barred from entering BSO facilities and must surrender his weapon. The other BSO officer involved in the incident at McDonald's, Deputy Christopher Krickovich, was placed on administrative assignment last week.
Last week's viral video showing a Broward deputy brutalizing an unarmed black teen is another reminder that racism is integral to police culture.
This past April 18, a witness recorded Sergeant Greg Lacerra pepper-spraying and body-slamming an unarmed black boy in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Tamarac. Officer Christopher Krickovich then slammed the kid's head on the pavement and punched him in the face. The teen was with other students from J.P. Taravella Senior High who showed up at the McDonald's to watch a fistfight.
The incident has sparked national outrage. Over the weekend, actress Gabrielle Union, who is also former Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade's wife, demanded swift action against Krickovich and two other deputies involved in the teen's false arrest. "There better be swift punishment against these officers," she tweeted. "If you believe in 'bad apples,' I need alllll the good apples to STAND UP and start hollerin."
Wade's former teammate LeBron James tweeted, "So wrong!! Hurts me to my soul!! To think that could be my sons. Scary times man." Even Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen called on Sheriff Gregory Tony to terminate Krickovich. "The officer who jumped the student, punched & banged his head should be fired," the mayor tweeted.
Taravella is a 13-minute drive from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the site of the most horrific school shooting in Florida. During the February 14, 2018 massacre, Broward deputies froze and hid behind squad cars as Nikolas Cruz shot 34 students and school employees, killing 17. After Cruz escaped, he was apprehended by a Coconut Creek Police officer who recognized him as the suspect.
Before Cruz went on his killing spree, Broward deputies responded to his house 39 times over a seven-year period. They never arrested him. They never roughed him up. And on two occasions in 2016 and 2017, deputies failed to follow up on tips about Cruz making threats to shoot up a school and owning multiple guns.
If Broward cops had treated him like the black kid at McDonald's, they probably would have stopped Cruz's evil act. Those 17 victims would still be alive. Because Cruz is white, deputies went soft on him. For African-American parents living in middle-class neighborhoods such as Tamarac, Coral Springs, and Parkland, any idea that cops wouldn't fuck with their children is shattered. They had a false sense of security.
The McDonald's incident is not an isolated case. Last October, the Coral Springs Police Department declined to investigate one of its officers who had punched a teenaged black girl while trying to arrest her at a local mall. That incident was captured on video and went viral too.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Tony — who was appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace the disgraced Scott Israel — is doing damage control after placing Krickovich on restrictive administrative assignment.
Even though Tony claimed he is "not going to sit and brush anything under the table," he said during an April 20 meeting with black elected officials in Broward that Krickovich is entitled to "due process." Tony is making excuses. It appears he is putting the deputy on desk duty until the controversy subsides.
Tony should take swift action like North Miami City Manager Larry Spring did in 2016 after one of his cops, Jonathan Aledda, shot an unarmed black behavioral therapist lying in the middle of the street. Spring immediately fired Aledda and didn't wait for the State Attorney's Office to investigative.
Activist parents from Stoneman Douglas such as Andrew Pollack, who pushed for Israel's firing, should stand up for the black boy who was attacked by Krickovich. They should be on the front lines with the African-American community holding Tony accountable.
They should be applying pressure to DeSantis. Did the governor appoint a token black sheriff to ensure police-brutality cases involving African-Americans got ignored? Tony should be removed from his job if he fails to take responsibility and change racist police culture.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Officer Christopher Krickovich's name and overstated his alleged role in the incident. It should have also referred to Officer Lacerra's role.