The Broward County Sheriff’s Department in Florida has faced accusations of using excessive force against high school students twice within recent months. But in the case involving Jordan Bennett, 17, Sheriff Gregory Tony is defending the deputy and says the short video that circulated online does not tell the full story.
A Broward County deputy was seen on-camera pinning Bennett to the ground in the school cafeteria. The incident occurred on February 21, 2019. Bennett’s family and attorney Jasmine Rand, who say the teen’s civil rights were violated, plan to file a lawsuit. They claim that the deputy tackled Bennett as he was walking away. Bennett family attorney Jasmine Rand compared the confrontation to that of another teen, Delucca Rolle, who was hit in the face with pepper spray and body-slammed by a Broward deputy in mid-April. In that case, the officers involved were suspended.
But Sheriff Tony says that additional video footage in the Bennett case supports the deputy’s assertion that Bennett became violent as he tried to escort the teen out of the cafeteria. The incident happened at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Student Teen Jordan Bennett Was Involved in a Verbal Argument With Another Student; the Family Claims a Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Intervened After the Confrontation Was Over
Jordan Bennett, 17, got into an argument with another student in the cafeteria at Blanche Ely High School on February 21, 2019. That’s according to his parents, Calvin Bennett and Debbie Russell-Bennett, and their civil rights attorney, Jasmine Rand. She is best known for representing the Trayvon Martin family.
The Bennetts claim that the argument between the two teenagers never became physical and that a custodian intervened. Rand stated that the custodian grabbed the teenager by the neck, but that the confrontation was over by the time the Broward County deputy got involved.
Jordan’s parents and attorney say that Jordan was walking away when the deputy tackled him to the ground. Jordan’s head was slammed onto the concrete floor. Video given to CBS Miami shows the deputy holding the teenager down with an arm on his neck. During a news conference attended by CBS Miami on May 13, Debbie Bennett said that her daughter witnessed the incident; she said she saw Jordan being choked before he was allowed off the ground.
Bennett was treated at a local hospital. He required stitches and attorney Rand said the gash on his forehead left a scar.
2. The Broward County Deputy Claimed in the Arrest Report That Jordan Bennett Resisted & Became Violent Before the Deputy Tackled Him
The Broward County deputy told a different story in the arrest report, which was cited by Fox affiliate WSVN-TV in Miami. The deputy wrote that Jordan Bennett became physical and angry with the custodian, and that is when he stepped in.
The deputy wrote that Bennett acted “aggressively” and was “flailing wildly” as the deputy tried to walk Bennett out of the cafeteria. He claimed that Bennett almost knocked a school employee over and wrote that “Bennett’s actions caused me to grab him and take him to the ground in an attempt to gain control of him and placed him into handcuffs.”
Debbie Bennett says the deputy apologized to her on the day of the incident, but that at the time, she was not aware that he was the person who had tackled her son.
3. The Family Plans to File a Civil Rights Lawsuit Against the Broward County Sheriff’s Office; Attorney Jasmine Rand Accused the Department of Engaging in ‘Systemic Abuse’
The Bennetts plans to file a civil rights lawsuit against the Broward County Sheriff’s Department. Attorney Jasmine Rand stated in a press release published by WPLG-TV, “Broward County Sheriff’s Officers must stop abusing our children.” She wrote that there is a “pattern and practice” of “systemic abuse” deployed by the department.
Rand added during the press conference on May 13 that she doesn’t think the deputy’s story, about Bennett reportedly becoming violent, makes sense. She explained that if Bennett had “kicked and hit and punched and bit” school officials, then prosecutors would have filed charges against him. But the state attorney did not do so.
4. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony Dismisses Claim of Excessive Force
The deputy involved in Jordan Bennett’s arrest has not been publicly identified.
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony spoke with reporters during the evening of May 13. He questioned the Bennett family attorney’s account of the confrontation, noting that there were no accusations of kicking or biting. He also defended the deputy’s actions.
Sheriff Tony told reporters, “What you all in the media have been able to see and release from a video standpoint is just a fraction of what this entire incident looked like. I’ve had opportunity to read my deputy’s report. I’ve had the opportunity to look at the surveillance video inside the schools. I’ve had the opportunity to look at the body-worn camera. And the allegations that were made today by Mr. Bennett’s attorney are not consistent and they’re not accurate with what video footage shows… There was no further application of force other than taking this young man down who was hostile and resistant the entire time.”
He added that the department would not be opening a formal investigation into the incident.
5. Bennett Family Attorney Jasmine Rand Cited the Case of Teenager Delucca Rolle as an Example of Their Argument Accusing the Broward Sheriff’s Department of Routinely Using Excessive Force
The Jordan Bennett case comes on the heels of another violent confrontation involving Broward County deputies. The case of teenager Delucca Rolle made national headlines in April after cellphone video recorded the teen being hit with pepper spray in the face and tackled to the ground.
Deputy Christopher Krickovich was identified as the officer seen on video appearing to slam Rolle’s head into the pavement after he was already on the ground. Deputy Krickovich and the second officer involved, Sergeant Gregory Lacerra, were both suspended on April 23. You can read more about the case here.
Attorney Jasmine Rand and Debbie Bennett both referenced the Rolle case during the May 13 press conference. Rand stated that the force used against the two teen boys were not isolated incidents. Debbie Bennett added, “I have been watching what happened to Lucca Rolle on television and I wanted people to know that it was not just an isolated incident. What happened to Lucca happened to my son Jordan.”