Ethan Fournier is a deputy and school resource officer in Osceola County who was caught on video slamming 16-year-old Taylor Bracey to the ground at Liberty High School in Kissimmee, Florida, in January 2021. Bracey was hospitalized and is suffering from insomnia, memory loss and headaches after the bodyslam, her family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said.
The viral video shows Bracey lose consciousness after being slammed onto concrete by Fournier, who then handcuffed her behind her back while he was motionless on the ground. Authorities said Fournier was breaking up a fight. The 33-year-old Fournier, a St. Cloud, Florida, resident, is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.
“My daughter is having headaches, blurry vision,” her mother, Jamesha Bracey said at a press conference on January 29. “She’s having trouble remembering things. Having a hard time sleeping. She’s very traumatized at this moment.” The family said they are concerned she has suffered permanent damage.
Bracey’s father, Monquell Bracey, said at the press conference, “I’m not that much of a talker, but I just want to see justice for my daughter.” Crump told reporters, “You can’t convince me Taylor Bracey did anything to justify this brutality.”
Here’s what you need to know about Deputy Ethan Fournier:
1. While Authorities Say Fournier Was Breaking Up a Fight, Bracey’s Mother Says It Was Only a Verbal Altercation, Not a Physical One
This is liberty high school in Osceola county and I’ve seen my share of body slams from that school not only by officers but from Deans as well. I’ve seen grown ass man hop on top of girls to hold them down while they are clearly in distress. pic.twitter.com/wyePuKVqqZ
— LouluNev (@LouluNevy) January 26, 2021
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said at a press conference that Fournier was breaking up a fight. But Bracey’s mother told reporters the altercation was only a verbal one, not a physical one. The video posted on social media of the incident does not show what led up to the body slam.
The video shows Fournier holding Bracey’s arm twisted behind her back and then throwing her over his knee and onto her head. Bracey’s head and shoulder smack into the concrete as other students yell. Fournier then rolls over on top of the face-down Bracey, who appears to be unconscious and not moving. Fournier can be seen in the video grabbing Bracey’s limp arms and handcuffing her behind her back as other students react. Another school employee then comes over to check on Bracey as the video ends.
Another video shows the incident from a different angle:
— LouluNev (@LouluNevy) January 26, 2021
A student at the school posted on Twitter on January 26, “Hi, i go to this school. this was recorded by many students around. it just happened right after B lunch finished. We had a fight a little earlier this same day during B lunch. You should bring this and post it on the news. This cop is a problem and the school won’t do anything.”
The video was posted on social media by several students, including on TikTok, and spread to Twitter and Facebook, before authorities provided information about the incident. In the video, another officer can be seen. That officer has not been identified and it is not clear if he is being investigated.
2. Fournier Has Been Placed on Paid Administrative Leave While the Investigation Is Conducted
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez held a press conference on January 27 and said the department made the decision to turn over the criminal investigation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement so that it is “completely independent” with “complete transparency.” The county attorney’s office is also assisting.
Lopez said there is “zero tolerance” for excessive force and police misconduct in the sheriff’s office. He was elected as sheriff in November 2020 and sworn into office in early January 2021. Lopez said the “juvenile is fine,” despite her family saying she suffered injuries and is continuing to experience medical issues as a result of the traumatic experience.
Lopez said the “deputy is also fine,” and that he “experienced some injuries when he hit the ground.” He also said there have been death threats made toward the deputy and his department will investigate those and “come after” anyone threatening Osceola County Sheriff’s Office employees.
“My understanding, it was a disruption of a school function. The student was not complying with lawful commands. She went after another student,” Lopez said. The deputy has been placed on paid administrative leave, the sheriff’s office said.
3. Fournier Has Worked for the Osceola Sheriff’s Office for 10 Years
Fournier has worked for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office for 10 years, according to authorities. It was not immediately clear how long Fournier has been working as a school resource officer at Liberty High School.
According to the Kissimmee high school’s website, Fournier was also the girls’ flag football team coach. The school district has not commented about the incident or whether he has been removed from that role.
In a statement to ABC News, district spokesperson Dana Schafer said, “It has been a difficult week for Liberty High students and staff. The entire staff and administration of Liberty High School remain committed to ensuring that we have a safe and positive learning environment for all students.” Schafer told ABC News the district is cooperating with the investigation.
Fournier, who was paid $48,000 in 2017, was named as employee of the month by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in August 2016, according to a Facebook post. The office did not say in the post why Fournier received the award.
4. Fournier Has Been Involved in 2 Traffic Crashes While in on Duty & Cited for Careless Driving in Both Cases & a Student Recalled a Controversial Pepper Spray Incident
Sheriff Lopez said “the deputy does not have a history of misconduct, other than minor damage to property.” He did not explain what incidents led to misconduct charges for damaging property. According to online records, Fournier was cited in Osceola County in 2015 for careless driving. He was also cited again in 2017 for the same offense.
According to online court records, the 2017 incident stemmed from a traffic crash while Fournier was on duty and driving a patrol SUV on Country Road 532 in Davenport. Fournier told the Florida Highway Patrol he was distracted by a loose radar mount in his vehicle and rear-ended a car that had stopped. He was fined $166 for careless driving.
The 2015 careless driving incident was also the result of a crash while on-duty that caused $3,000 in damage and injured someone. He was also fined $166 for that incident.
A Liberty High School student also told TMZ about an incident involving Fournier at the school. Junior Daijah Watts said she thought Fournier was a “chill dude,” but “Watts claims she saw Fournier use pepper spray on a group of kids who were fighting 2 years ago. She now thinks the whole department is suspicious.”
The gossip site also wrote, “Trey’vion Telfair … who tells TMZ he used to think Officer Fournier was a good guy. He says Fournier participated in police brutality seminars for Liberty’s Black Student Union back in September, and seemed genuine … saying he stood with them. Telfair now thinks it was all an act.
5. Bracey’s Attorney, Ben Crump, Says the Family Is Calling for Fournier to Be Fired & Arrested
At a press conference, Crump, who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many other victims of police misconduct and brutality and other civil rights violations, called for Fournier to be fired, arrested and barred from ever working as a police officer again, especially at a school.
“I would not allow that to happen to my child,” Crump told reporters at the press conference. “It’s unacceptable.” Crump added, “I am just angry that a trained professional, adult man feels that he has the right to pick up and slam a young Black girl. They don’t do this to other people’s children. Why do they feel like it’s OK to do it to our children?”
Crump has started a petition to call for Fournier to be held accountable. Crump wrote, “Taylor, a Black child with a bright future, was unarmed and posed NO threat to Deputy Fournier. Why did he think it was okay to ruthlessly throw her against the hard ground?”
The attorney added:
Black students already have a hard time feeling safe. We do NOT need to add school resource officers to their list of daily fears. We must treat our next generation with respect and dignity. They deserve to learn in a safe, non-hostile environment, NOT to get beaten and traumatized by adult bullies like this deputy!
Unfortunately, this may be emblematic of a bigger problem. The Osceola Sheriff’s Office has been subject to scrutiny in recent years for arresting students for first-time offenses connected to fights, typically on misdemeanor battery charges. A recent study by the Carruthers Institute said they’ve had the fourth-most youth arrests in lieu of juvenile civil citations for “common youth misbehavior.”
There’s no excuse for Deputy Ethan Fournier’s overzealous behavior. He could have killed Taylor and we will not tolerate these actions in our schools. We must hold this SRO accountable!
A petition has also been started by students at the high school, calling for Fournier to be fired. It has received more than 3,800 signatures.
“The victim could’ve died in this situation and the deputy shouldn’t able able to walk away from this without any proper action taken to punish him. This deputy has a known history of not being able to handle situations with students in a proper manner, he is known for pepper spraying kids at school whenever a situation gets out of hand instead of properly detaining them,” the students wrote.
The Change.org petition adds, “Our school’s principal has not addressed the situation after this incident , when other incidents with this officer happened and was recorded the school suspended anyone who recorded and tried to address the issue. This needs to end now and shouldn’t go on in our community any longer.”