A Florida police department finds itself defending what appears to be excessive force in the arrest of a teenage girl that was caught on cell phone video outside of a mall in Coral Springs.
The video shows two officers from the Coral Springs Police Department on Thursday kneeling on the back of the 14-year-old girl, face down on the ground with her hands pinned underneath her body. One of the officers punches her, at least twice, in the ribs.
Meanwhile, an onlooker is heard on the video screaming, “Why are you hitting her? Her hands underneath her.”
The police response to that question is unbelievable. “She was struck in the side to release her clenched fists,” a statement from the police said, according to WSVN-TV. But that could be kind of difficult if two officers are kneeling on her back while her hands are pinned underneath her body.
Coral Springs Police Deputy Chief Brad McKeone described the blows as “distraction strikes.”
The girl was part of a large group of teens released early from school on Thursday and decided to cause trouble at the mall, according to the police. Most of the teens left the mall when the police arrived. But she was among those who stayed behind and ignored orders to leave. She allegedly resisted when the officers tried to take her into custody.
“She clearly wasn’t aggressive. Everyone could see she was laying there. So I just want justice to be served,” the teen’s mother, Jessica Dennis, stated, as she viewed the video with her attorney. “I’m angry. I would never expect this to happen.”
It wasn’t immediately clear exactly what charges the teen faced, but she was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center in Fort Lauderdale.
The police justification for punishing the teen is weak, Dennis’ lawyer said. “It’s clear from the video that my client was on the ground. Her hands are under her belly, the officer’s knees are on her back, and he’s just gut-shotting her, like one after another,” the attorney Meeghan Moldof added.