The group of teenagers who filmed and mocked a man as he was drowning in a Cocoa pond will face charges after all, police said Friday.
- Jamel Dunn drowned in a Cocoa pond July 7
- 5 teens laughed while filming drowning, police say
- Cocoa Police turned to state death-reporting statute for charges
- RELATED: Man's body found at edge of Cocoa pond identified
- SEE BELOW: Video of the drowning ▼
In a news conference, Cocoa Police Chief Michael Cantaloupe did not describe the charges that will be filed against the five teenagers who recorded and mocked 31-year-old Jamel Dunn as he drowned July 7. But he said that after looking long and hard at Florida law, the teens would face charges for not reporting a death.
He said that there's no law requiring to report to officials that someone is dying. But after someone has died, people are required to contact authorities.
A day after police said that no charges would be filed despite the immorality of the teens' actions, Cantaloupe said his detectives and prosecutors from the State Attorney's Office spoke for hours on Friday, trying to find a way to press charges. Police are now in the midst of paperwork to the office, he said.
The statute they will use, Florida Statute 406.12, is typically reserved for medical examiners when it comes to reported deaths. It reads: "It is the duty of any person in the district where a death occurs, who becomes aware of the death of any person occurring... must report such death and circumstances to the district medical examiner."
The charge is a misdemeanor.
"It will be kind of a test case," Cantaloupe said. "... As far as we know, the statute has never been used in this way."
Cantaloupe said there should be a law that would make it illegal to not report someone who is dying and in need of aid.
"We don't want another family have to go through what the Dunn family has went through," he said. Building better laws, working with juveniles and establishing better family relationships may prevent another situation, he added.
Cantaloupe said it's possible Dunn would be alive today if one of the teens had called for help.
Cantaloupe said he's not giving out the names of the teenagers because it's an ongoing investigation. But he said their ages are between 14 to 16 years old.
Charging documents and evidence are being sent to the State Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether the charges will be prosecuted.
Dunn's sister, Simone McIntosh, who just learned from investigators about the charges being filed, told News 13 that she "hopes they stick, and new legislation is written so this never happens to another family."
Cell phone video
In the disturbing cell phone video, Dunn, 31, is seen trying to keep his head above water in a Cocoa pond as the five teens stood on the bank, watching, laughing and recording the entire incident, police said.
They made it clear they were not going to help him.
"Ain't nobody going to help you you dumb *****; you shouldn't have got in there," one of the teens is heard saying.
Seconds later, Dunn goes under and does not come back up.
It's one of the most disturbing videos that Cocoa Police spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez said she has seen or heard.
"He went under, didn't come back up, and they continued to laugh," she said.
As one of them was being interviewed with his mother present, she was in tears, while the boy had a smirk on his face, she added.
The State Attorney's Office released a statement about the drowning.
"The incident depicted on the recording does not rise to sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution under Florida statutes. We can find no moral justification for either the behavior of persons heard on the recording of the deliberate decision not to render aid to Mr. Dunn," it stated.
"This is an isolated act of unspeakable inhumanity and in no way is a reflection of our community," Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish III said in a statement.
Dunn was determined to have entered the water on his own after video from a neighbor’s security camera showed him scaling a fence and intentionally going into the pond.
'Rendering aid' is not a requirement in many states
When it comes to people in distress, many states do not require that someone render aid or even call authorities.
Some states do require assistance in car crashes, or if you're the person who put the other person in danger in the first place.
Another is on the water: Federal law requires a mariner under U.S. jurisdiction to help anyone "found at sea in danger of being lost."
Also, all states have good Samaritan laws that protect people from being sued for anything that happened while trying to help someone in danger.
Many countries do have laws requiring assistance, even if you only call authorities. They include Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.
WARNING: Some may find this video disturbing. News 13 has removed the audio of the video in respect to Jamel Dunn's family.