A Florida mother believes that excessive force was used on her teenage daughter who was struck and arrested by a police officer at a mall that was caught on video and has gone viral.
But police say the video doesn’t capture the entire story.
The troubling incident occurred Thursday at a mall in Coral Springs and the video shows the 14-year-year-old face down on the pavement on top of her hands as two officers attempt to handcuff her for allegedly defying a trespassing order.
In the video, one officer is seen punching the teen twice in her ribs and grabbing her shorts. Another girl is heard yelling in the video: “Why are you hitting her? She can’t do it! She can’t do it! She can’t do that! Her hands [are] underneath her!”
The teen’s mother, Jessica Dennis told WSVN-TV Friday that her daughter wasn’t resisting.
“She clearly wasn’t aggressive. Everyone could see she was laying there,” said Dennis about her daughter. “I just want justice to be served.”
The teen’s attorney, Meeghan Moldoff said the officer “just gut-shotting her, like one after another.”
Police said officers were responding to a call about some unruly teens at the mall who were harassing and cursing at shoppers. The teen was allegedly pushing another teen as officers issued a trespass warning and told not to return, according to the authorities.
Most of the teens left, but some remained, including the girl seen in the video, police said. And, after a teenage boy was arrested, the girl began cursing and tried to rile up the other teens, police said.
“Officers attempted to take her into custody, at which time she began to fight and resist arrest. Due to her stature and aggressive behavior, officers took her to the ground attempting to get her to release her fists,” according to a statement by the Coral Springs Police Department. “As seen in the video, she resisted arrest, and in order to have her comply, she was struck in the side to release her clenched fists.”
Deputy Chief Brad McKeone disputes that the officer’s actions were excessive. He told the TV station that the officer seen in the video delivered some “distraction strikes” to the girl near an area where her hands were underneath her.
“The officers don’t know what she may have in her possession. That’s a concern,” said McKeone, adding that officers arrived to “restore some peace and order to the mall.”
After the girl was taken into custody, she apparently kicked a female officer in the stomach, police said. The teen, whose name hasn’t been officially released, was taken to a juvenile center in nearby Fort Lauderdale awaiting charges.
But Moldof, the teen’s attorney, said the teen’s behavior doesn’t justify the officer’s actions.
“To say that the police officer was justified to punch her continuously while he has his knees on her back and her hands around her belly, the video speaks for itself,” she said. “That’s the truth right there.”
Dennis, the teenage girl’s mother, said the video has been difficult to watch.
“I really couldn’t keep watching it. It was just too much because it just makes you angry,” she said. “I mean, I was heartbroken.”
The incident remains under investigation.