A group of teenagers accused of mocking and heckling a drowning man in a Florida pond may face charges.
In a Facebook video purporting to show the drowning death of Jamel Dunn, the group can be heard laughing and swearing at the 31-year-old victim as he struggles to stay afloat in the water. One of the teenagers allegedly recorded the scene at a retention pond in Cocoa.
The State Attorney’s Office said that while there was no moral justification for the incident, there wasn’t sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.
On Friday, the Cocoa Police Department announced they’d be able to recommend charges against the teens under a state statute that says a person who witnesses a death must report it to a medical examiner. WFTV reported it’s a misdemeanor charge and the attorney’s office will make a final decision.
While Cocoa Police said they are suggesting charges against the teens, legal experts say the teenagers had no obligation to rescue the drowning man. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a 2012 legal argument, summarized that across the U.S. there's no general duty to render aid to someone in distress.
"You don't have the duty to rescue someone if that person is in danger. The blind man is walking in front of a car and you do not have a duty to stop him absent some relation between you," Kennedy said in arguments on the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
Kennedy added that there are "some severe moral criticisms of that rule, but that's generally the rule."
Police identified and interviewed the five teens involved. The office of State Attorney Phil Archer determined there was no immediate indication that a crime was committed because state law does not require people give or call for help when someone is in distress. Archer's office said Friday prosecutors will review the entire police file to see if any other criminal violations might apply.
Police say the teenagers were around 14-16 years old.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.