COCOA, FL - Police and prosecutors say little can be done legally after the revelation that a group of teens filmed the dying moments of a 32-year-old disabled man last week, with the teens mocking, cursing and laughing while the man drowned in a fenced-off pond.
The Brevard County State Attorney's Office released the video to FLORIDA TODAY and called the incident a "tragedy" and said the teens' lack of action had "no moral justification" but added that the teens do not appear to have violated any laws.
The minute-long video, which police called "extremely disturbing," found its way to social media over the weekend before ending up in the hands of detectives.
The clip depicts the unidentified teens — ages 14 to 16 — off-camera, laughing as the man screamed off in the distance for help before going under in the murky water just after noon July 9 off Plaza Parkway. There were no calls to 911 from the teens.
Instead, police later found the badly decomposed body of the man — identified as Jamel Dunn — July 12. Police said Dunn, who was heavily tattooed, was last seen wearing a black shirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘I’m Blessed,’ and a red hat that read "Only God can judge me," drowned.
Foul play was not suspected. His fiancée filed a missing person report after he failed to turn up at home in Cocoa. Then, after the body was found last Friday, a family friend saw the video on social media and turned it over to police. The cell phone video then gave detectives insight into what happened the day Dunn disappeared.
WARNING: Strong language. FLORIDA TODAY has obtained a video that appears to show a man drowning in a Cocoa Pond last week while a group of teens mock the drowning man. This is the audio portion of that video. Wochit
“(The teens) were telling him they weren’t going in after him and that ‘you shouldn’t have gone in there,'” said Yvonne Martinez, spokeswoman for the Cocoa Police Department.
“He started to struggle and scream for help and they just laughed. They didn’t call the police. They just laughed the whole time. He was just screaming… for someone to help him.”
The teens were identified and questioned by detectives but likely will not face charges because they were not directly involved, nor are there any Good Samaritan laws that would be applicable in the case, police said.
Police also added that there appeared to be little remorse from the teens. On the video, the teens refer to the possibility of an alligator being in the pond and can be heard shouting to Dunn as he splashed in the water.
“Get out the water, you gonna die” one teen shouted. Another yelled at Dunn, saying, “ain’t nobody fixing to help you, you dumb (expletive).”
Seconds later, Dunn could be heard yelling. Then his head disappeared beneath the water one last time.
“Oh, he just died,” another teen says before laughter ensues. The teens then left the park without telling authorities.
After the body was retrieved, detectives noted that one of the teens stared ahead during the questioning. Next to him, his mother broke down in tears, distraught at the situation he was involved in, Martinez said.
“There was no remorse, only a smirk,” said Martinez. There are worries for the boys’ safety as word of the case continues to go viral online.
Family members were shocked. Simone Scott, who identified herself as Dunn’s sister, took to social media to raise questions about how her brother was treated and the lack of charges in the case.
“(Okay), I agree they don’t have to help, but they should have called 9-1-1,” Scott posted.
“My brother is disabled and walks with a cane…please make it make sense to me,” she said of his death. Another family friend said Dunn was the father of two young daughters and was known to be giving to others.
Stunned, detectives forwarded the case to the Brevard County State Attorney’s Office in Viera. However, the agency’s top prosecutors could not find any criminal act on the part of the teens for failing to either call police or help the man another way.
Nothing compelled them to be Good Samaritans, authorities said.
"We are deeply saddened and shocked at both the manner in which Mr. Dunn lost his life and the actions of the witnesses to this tragedy,” the State Attorney’s Office said in a statement sent to FLORIDA TODAY. The agency also released the video to the public.
"While the incident depicted on the recording does not give rise to sufficient evidence to support criminal prosecution under Florida statutes, we can find no moral justification for either the behavior of persons heard on the recording or the deliberate decision not to render aid to Mr. Dunn."
Police said Dunn turned up at the pond following an argument with his fiancée about 10-to-15 minutes before the incident. The fiancée then left the scene to run errands.
“The kids were at the park that day smoking marijuana and apparently saw him walk into the water. He walked in on his own. They were watching him,” Martinez said.
Dunn waded into the water from the west side as the teens watched from the south side of the pond.
“They just started recording what happened and watched until he died,” Martinez said.
“Everybody is just horrified by this.”
Family friend Jontavius Scott said Dunn deserved better.
"He was a good guy... ," he said. "It's just tough to know that these kids would sit and laugh at something like this."
Contact Gallop at 321-242-3642, firstname.lastname@example.org and JDGallop at @JDGallop
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