Published On: Thu, Jun 24th, 2021

Video shows Florida trooper using stun gun on teenager outside girlfriend’s home

A state trooper in Florida profiled and then used excessive force when he fired a stun gun at a teenager who was in his girlfriend’s backyard waiting to see her, the boy’s mother said Wednesday.

Kristina Rodeman’s son, Jack, 16, who she said is biracial, was in his girlfriend’s backyard in Fort Myers on June 16 when a Florida Highway Patrol trooper is seen on private video asking the teenager to put his hands behind his back.

When Jack ignores the order, the trooper tases him, and the boy falls and hits his head and back against a fire pit.

“He was profiled because he is Black in black clothes. There is no doubt in my mind,” Rodeman said. “He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He literally was just walking down the street going to his girlfriend’s.”

Images of the incident captured in a video provided to Rodeman by her son’s girlfriend’s family, caused her to “lose her breath,” she said.

“When I seen the video, I thought, ‘oh my God. That hurt my heart.’”

Officials with the highway patrol did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday.

NBC affiliate WBBH in Fort Myers reported the department is conducting an internal investigation into the incident.

Rodeman provided NBC News with the probable cause statement written by the trooper who arrested her son last week.

The trooper was identified in the report as George Smyrnios. In his report, the trooper said the teen was dressed in suspicious clothing when he turned into a private neighborhood named Timber Lake.

“I saw the defendant (a suspicious person) dressed in black pants, black sweater/hoodie, and black tennis shoes,” said the probable cause report. Smyrnios wrote the teen saw his patrol vehicle and darted away and hid in thick shrubbery, which made him more suspicious. The teen walked onto a backyard, the report said.

“His behavior, demeanor and body language appeared to be a burglar. It looked to me like he had just committed a crime or was about to commit a crime,” Smyrnios wrote.

The trooper then motioned with his hand for the teenager to come to him. The boy said no, the report read. Smyrnios asked again, telling the teen he’s a police officer.

The teen entered a different backyard and Smyrnios then pulled out his taser and told the teen he would use it against him if he didn’t comply.

“The red dots were placed on his back and I deployed the Taser. The probes struck his upper, right shoulder and upper, right buttock,” Smyrnios wrote. “The defendant fell to the ground. I told him to place his hands behind his back. He failed to comply so I activated the Taser again,” the probable cause statement said.

Jack Rodeman was arrested and charged with failing to obey a lawful order, resisting without violence and possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana, Smyrnios’ report said.

The report and Kristina Rodeman said her son took, without permission, a bottle of her prescription marijuana.

Derek Tyler, an attorney representing Jack Rodeman in the case, said it’s unclear how many times Smyrnios fired the stun gun. He will retrieve those records, he said, noting Jack Rodeman said it was four times.

“This was completely unjustified, and I believe it amounts to torture. There is no justification for his actions.”

His client is in good spirits but also is at a juvenile facility following his arrest, and struggling with back pains from when he fell onto the fire pit, Tyler said.

The path the teen took to get to his girlfriend’s home last week, Tyler said, was the same as every day, which was to cut through the bushes.

Brian Higgins, retired police chief of the former Bergen County Police Department in New Jersey, said video shows multiple questionable decisions by the trooper who tased the teen. Higgins’ former department recently merged with the county’s sheriff’s office.

Higgins, who is also an adjunct lecturer at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, said the trooper unnecessarily deployed the weapon.

“The taser was originally designed to be another option to avoid use of deadly force. It was not necessarily meant to be a weapon to make sure someone follows your instruction,” Higgins said. “There is not an ongoing struggle. There is not a threat of a weapon or any other use of force.”

The trooper also didn’t have justification for tasing a teen a second time while he was on the ground in pain, Higgins said.

“To hit him a second time, there should be some justifiable reason for that. Is it just the kid wasn’t moving fast enough? He had just been tased,” he said.

Kristina Rodeman, who visited her son at the juvenile detention facility Wednesday, said the ordeal has been difficult on her son and her family.

“Last night I just fell apart, and today, I’m just falling apart,” she said while beginning to cry. Smyrnios acted too aggressively toward her son, she said.

“I hate for anybody to lose their job. But what he did was wrong,” Rodeman said. “I want justice for my son.”

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