An Osceola County Sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer who slammed a Black teenage student to the ground in January will not face criminal charges, State Attorney Monique Worrell announced on Tuesday, Aug. 17.
Liberty High School student Taylor Bracey, 16, was slammed to the ground by deputy Ethan Fournier on Jan. 26, a viral video shows.
The teenager was knocked unconscious when her head hit the concrete after Fournier slammed her down. Authorities say Fournier was trying to stop Bracey from fighting another student.
According to the girl’s mom, Jamesha Bracey, the teen suffered from sleeping problems and memory loss after the incident. Fournier was placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation.
Worrell called the deputy’s actions disturbing but said what he did was not illegal. “Although Officer Fournier’s actions were legal by Florida law, as a parent and member of this community, when I watch this video, like many of you, I was angry and concerned for the safety and wellbeing of my children, and all children,” she said, News 13 reported.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement opened an investigation in January then turned the findings over to Worrell’s office in May. Under state law, officers are permitted to use force under certain circumstances.
Attorneys for the family released a statement after the decision not to criminally charge Fournier was made.
“The facts of this case are laid out for everyone to see in that disturbing video. A Black teenager was violently body-slammed to the ground, knocked unconscious, and handcuffed at her own school by Deputy Fournier. That kind of force is aggressive, unacceptable, and not at all what it looks like to de-escalate a situation between high school girls.
Taylor is still feeling the repercussions from Fournier’s actions and likely will for the rest of her life. This disgusting incident certainly sends a message to our young people of color – police officers should not be trusted and ‘protect and serve’ is nothing more than a meaningless slogan. While the state attorney has failed to get justice for Taylor, we won’t stop until we do.”
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez defended Fournier’s actions, saying, “Once the officer or the deputy decides we’re no longer in control of the situation, he’s gonna resort to the tactics that he’s trained by.” He added, “They’re not always gonna look pretty, but this was the best way to maintain control of that situation.”
But Worrell said school resource officers need more training, body cameras and access to mental health services to effectively aid students in a crisis situation.
After footage of the incident went viral earlier this year, the video sparked outrage and some parents called for the school to get rid of school resource officers completely while others demanded policy changes.
Fournier said he would like to return to working at Liberty High School if given the opportunity.