Police seek charges for teens accused of filming, mocking drowning man

Teens filmed and mocked a man while he drowned in a retention pond.

COCOA, Fla. — Police are pushing for criminal charges to be filed against five teens accused of filming the final moments of a 32-year-old man without calling 911 as he drowned in a pond.

Cocoa Police Chief Mike Cantaloupe said Friday that he is seeking misdemeanor charges under a Florida statute related to not reporting a death. The State Attorney's Office will decide whether to file the charges against the five teens, ages 14 to 16.

According to police, the video showed the teens laughing and mocking the man — identified as Jamel Dunn — as they filmed him screaming, then going underwater in a Cocoa pond on July 9. The group made no calls to 911 nor made any effort to help Dunn.

Authorities recovered Dunn's body three days later. Dunn was disabled.

Cantaloupe said he met with State Attorney Phil Archer on Friday morning and is optimistic Archer's office will pursue the charges.

Under the statute Cantaloupe cited: "It is the duty of any person … who becomes aware of the death of any person" in an accident "to report such death forthwith to the medical examiner's office." 

Cantaloupe said he believes this is the first time the statute is being used for this type of circumstance. The statute's heading indicates it typically deals with medical examiners and the disposal of human remains.

If found guilty, the first-degree misdemeanor charge carries a sentence of up to one year in jail for adults, but the penalty for a juvenile would be different.

WARNING: Disturbing audio below features strong language.

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

Cantaloupe also plans to work with local officials to push for a new criminal statute in Florida to address similar circumstances, specifically focusing on "not rendering aid," he said. 

"Unfortunately, there is currently no statute in Florida law that compels an individual to render, request or seek aid for a person in distress," Archer said in a statement Friday. "We are, however, continuing to research whether any other statute may apply to the facts of this case."

Officers have interviewed three of the teens and only some expressed remorse for their actions, Cantaloupe said. Police know the identities of the two other teens.

Police also obtained a separate video from a nearby home security camera, which appears to indicate Dunn intentionally went into the water, Cantaloupe said. Police are not releasing that video to the media because of the ongoing investigation, he added.

Follow David Berman on Twitter at @bydaveberman

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