A Florida appellate court has sided with a Broward Sheriff's Office sergeant who used the state's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law after being charged with battery in the case of a rough arrest of a teen that was captured on cellphone video.
A judge had dismissed the case against Sgt. Gregory LaCerra in 2020 but prosecutors appealed the decision. On Thursday, the 4th District Court of Appeals sided with LaCerra, though he still faces a lesser charge in the case.
"Sgt. Lacerra is delighted and happy this day is finally here," said his attorney, Eric Schwartzreich. "Police officers are allowed to use the 'Stand Your Ground' law. Sgt. Lacerra that day was confronted in a situation where he had shown to a place there had been 100 prior calls to service—where there had been mayhem and terror in that plaza.”
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LaCerra and former deputy Chris Krickovich were charged following the April 2019 arrest of then 15-year-old DeLucca Rolle at a shopping plaza parking lot in Tamarac.
The viral video of the encounter showed Krickovich on the back of the teen before he's seen pushing Rolle’s head into the pavement.
In her 2020 orders dismissing the charge against LaCerra, Broward Circuit Court Judge Jill Levy detailed the violent and chaotic history of students at the plaza, noting that law enforcement officers, business owners and employees confirmed it was a "location of substantial peril, an arena utilized for physical combat between the students and routinely against deputies, and a location known to all whom testified as a very dangerous place with consistent and escalating lawlessness and violence abound."
Levy said LaCerra was justified in believing Rolle was about to attack him after the teen had been "bowing and blading his body in what would be described as a pre-attack posture and telling LaCerra 'Don't f---ing touch me' with his hand in a fist," the orders said.
"The Court finds a reasonable person situated in LaCerra's position, knowing what he knew under the same circumstances would have acted in the same manner," Levy wrote. "LaCerra was justified in arresting Delucca Rolle for Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, pepper spraying him and pushing him to the ground to make the arrest."
The charges against Rolle were later dropped. An attorney for the Rolle family said they disagree with the appellate court's decision.
"It is very alarming to us that a law that was created to further citizens' rights to protect themselves from danger is being used by police officers to basically abuse members of the community, including children," attorney Sue Ann Robinson said. "And obviously, we don’t agree with what the 4th DCA has decided."
Krickovich's attempt to use the "Stand Your Ground" defense was rejected at the initial trial.