A Florida mother has hired legal representation after she said her son was racially profiled by a state trooper while visiting his girlfriend. The occurrence was caught on a home surveillance camera.
The incident reportedly took place on Wednesday, June 16, in Fort Myers when Jack Rodeman, who is biracial, was walking to his girlfriend’s home on Indian Laurel Way when state Trooper George Smyrnios followed him. According to a police report obtained by CBS 12, Smyrnios thought the 16-year-old looked “suspicious” because he was wearing all black clothing. The report also stated that Rodeman “darted” and hid in the bushes once he spotted Smyrnios’ patrol car. “It looked to me that he had just committed a crime or was about to commit a crime,” the trooper wrote in his report.
Shortly afterward, Smyrnios followed the teenager into his girlfriend’s backyard and told him to put his hands behind his back. Rodeman, whom the video shows texting on his phone and facing the home’s sliding back door, could be heard telling the trooper, who is by now pointing a stun gun at him, that he needs to call the girlfriend first. “I told you to do something; turn around,” Smyrnios says. “I didn’t do nothing” the teen responds before Smyrnios shocked him with the weapon. Rodeman collided with a brick fountain as he fell to the ground. Another shock was released before the teen places his hand behind his back.
Florida Highway Patrol is currently investigating the situation. Meanwhile, Wink News noted that according to FHP policy, “The use of a CEW (conducted electrical weapon) is authorized and may be an appropriate response in the case of a sudden attack, or when ‘active resistance’ or greater is offered by a subject who is about to be taken into custody for any reason.”
The guidelines also state that what the teenager did would have been considered passive resistance or “the subject refuses to take his hands out of his pockets or from behind his back.” The trooper claimed he had no choice but to tase him when he disobeyed his verbal orders to put his hands behind his back, but the policy doesn’t mention verbal noncompliance as an adequate reason to have pulled his weapon.
David J. Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at Florida Gulf Coast University and a former police officer, spoke to the outlet, telling them, “The most egregious part to me is here’s a kid who was offering no active resistance but passive resistance by being on his phone and texting, and because he failed to comply with your lawful order, you shot him with a Taser, and he fell and hit his head on a brick.”
He added, “If he goes and says let’s put handcuffs on, then the kid starts to fight and resist, then you have a legitimate reason to use a Taser, but you don’t have a legitimate reason to use a Taser because the kids ignoring him and on his phone.”
Furthermore, two reports were written on the incident, both of which left out critical details of that day, including that Rodeman’s girlfriend came into the backyard, letting the trooper know he was allowed there as Smyrnios handcuffed the teen. Also, in the first report, there was no mention of a weapon, but in the amended report, the trooper wrote he “could not see (jack’s) hands” and “I was concerned that he might have a weapon.”
Following the altercation, Rodeman was arrested and is currently at the Southwest Florida Juvenile Justice Center. He was charged with failure to obey a police officer, possession of medical marijuana, and obstruction without violence. His mother, Kristina, was first able to see her son on Wednesday, June 23, and says he’s still in pain, adding that this incident “didn’t need to happen” and just wants her son to come home. She also plans to sue.
‘I’m going after him for excessive force,’ she told USA Today. “I’ve read about things they have to follow or abide by also and from what I’m seeing he had no right to do that. They have rules they have to go by, too. I don’t want this to happen to another child.”
Meanwhile, her lawyer, Derek Tyler, says they plan to “vigorously defend all of the charges, and we are also going to vigorously pursue every legal avenue available regarding the unmitigated, unjustified torture that he was subjected to by the officer involved.”
The FHP said they would not comment on the matter any further until the investigation concluded.