Osceola County, FL – The State’s Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that the school resource officer featured in a viral video of a takedown in the hallway at Liberty High School will not face any criminal charges.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said the incident occurred when a fight broke out as students were changing classes on Jan. 26, WFTV reported.
Osceola County Sheriff Marco Lopez said the incident involving the school resource officer was filmed as the deputy was trying to stop a fight between two students.
“From my understanding, there was a disruption of a school function,” Sheriff Lopez said. “The student was not complying with lawful commands. She went after another student and from there it excelled…”
The cell phone video does not show the initial altercation that led to the student being taken into custody.
The video began as the school resource officer, whom the sheriff identified as Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy Ethan Fournier, was in the process of taking a female student to the ground, WFTV reported.
In the video, Deputy Fournier held the student with her arms behind her back as he brought her to the ground.
There was a disturbing thud sound in the video when the girl’s head appeared to hit the floor during the takedown.
After she hit the ground, the video showed the student stopped resisting and appeared to be unconscious as the deputy straddle her and placed her in handcuffs.
Sheriff Lopez said the girl received medical attention at the school and “the juvenile was fine.”
He also said the deputy had “sustained some injuries when he hit the ground.”
Sheriff Lopez announced shortly after the incident that in the interest of transparency, he had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to step in and handle the investigation, WESH reported.
The sheriff said that Deputy Fournier was placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation was being conducted.
On Aug. 17, Florida State’s Attorney Monique Worrell announced that Deputy Fournier wouldn’t face any criminal charges in connection with the incident, WFTV reported.
Worrell said that as a mother, it was hard to watch the video.
But she also said that Deputy Fournier hadn’t broken any laws with his actions, WFTV reported.
The prosecutor explained that what the school resource officer did was protected under state law, so the State’s Attorney’s Office couldn’t in good faith charge him.
“Let me be very clear, this decision is based solely on the law,” Worrell said. “Although Officer Fournier’s actions were legal in accordance with Florida law, as a parent and a member of this community when I watched this video I was angry and concerned for the safety and well-being of my own children and all children.”
She challenged the community to go to state lawmakers and local school boards if they wanted to change the way things were done, WFTV reported.
Florida law says a law enforcement officer need not retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance to the arrest, and the officer is justified in the use of force that they believe it to be reasonably necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making an arrest.
Natalie Jackson, a lawyer for the family of the 16-year-old girl who was taken down by Deputy Fournier, said they were disappointed but not surprised by the prosecutor’s decision, WFTV reported.
”From a legal standpoint, we are not surprised it is very hard to get criminal charges against officers even an officer who brutally slams a young girl to the ground,” Jackson said.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content:
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