Early Wednesday afternoon, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the NAACP of Fort Lauderdale demanded prosecutors charge BSO officers caught on cellphone video brutally slamming a black J.P. Taravella High School student's head to the ground on April 18.
Cellphone video of the encounter captured Broward sheriff's deputy Christopher Krickovich and Sgt. Greg Lacerra pepper spraying and punching 15-year-old Delucca Rolle during a rough arrest outside of a Tamarac McDonald's. The incident began when Rolle attempted to pick up the cellphone of another teen who was being arrested for fighting in the restaurant parking lot.
Rolle, whose nose was broken during the altercation, was charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, and assault of a police officer. The Broward State Attorney's Office later dropped the charges.
The video sparked a national outcry. Celebrities such as former Miami Heat star Lebron James, Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver Kenny Stills, and Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr tweeted out the video and demanded disciplinary action against the officers involved. Since the April incident, there have been at least two community rallies demanding criminal charges against the cops. But so far, the officers have only been placed on restricted administrative assignment.
"We said if the State Attorney's Office did not do the right thing, we would be back," said NAACP Fort Lauderdale/Broward County President Marsha Ellison at the press conference. "We are sick of the finger-pointing. We are not asking for anything special. We are asking that [Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony] hold these people accountable who have abused their authority, who abused this young man; and we are sick of this waiting game — it is not good enough."
Florida elected officials including Sen. Perry Thurston of Lauderhill and Reps. Patricia Williams of Deerfield Beach and Bobby DuBose of Fort Lauderdale, all Democrats, expressed disappointment with the lack of action by the Broward SAO. They warned that arming teachers might lead to more violence against black children in schools.
Claintina Rolle, Delucca's mother, spoke on behalf of her son, who is undergoing treatment for mental and physical injuries. She says he still struggles with the memory of that day. For her, it still feels like an open wound.
Crump, who is representing the Rolle family, expressed frustration. "It has been over two months with a video, and the State Attorney still says that they don't have enough evidence to charge the police officer for this crime against this child," he said. "Everybody — Stevie Wonder can see it — can see that this was an aggravated assault and battery. You don't have to have a law degree to see that these police officers violated the constitutional rights of this child."
Crump, who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, says the State Attorney's Office claims it needs time to review medical records. But he says he doesn't understand why that's pertinent to charging the officers.
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"We know they charge black or brown people every day with no evidence at all," Crump says. "Why are the rules different when the police abuse our children?"
About an hour before the NAACP's press conference, the State Attorney's Office released a statement blaming BSO for the delay. "If BSO had arrested the deputies, an accelerated investigation would have ensued because legal time limits would have been imposed by the arrest process," the statement read, adding that a decision from prosecutors is expected "very soon."
Crump says if no charges are filed by July 4, he'll petition the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to get involved in the investigation.
Today's criticism was just the latest against BSO. On June 18, the public defender's office sent a letter to Sheriff Tony demanding an immediate investigation into "the high number and frequency of deaths within the jails" after the recent deaths of two inmates. The letter claimed BSO failed to provide proper healthcare to the inmates, resulting in their deaths. It cited the case of Tammy Jackson, a mentally ill inmate who was forced to give birth alone in her cell on April 10 — just eight days before the Rolle incident.