The mother of 17-year-old Jordan Bennett went public today with a video showing a deputy holding the teen in a chokehold on the floor of the cafeteria at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach. During a news conference alongside attorney Jasmine Rand, Debbie Russell-Bennett said her son was left with a gash on his forehead and needed stitches as a result of the February 21 incident. She said she wanted people to know that what happened to Lucca Rolle, the student assaulted by Dep. Christopher Krickovich near Taravella High, wasn't isolated.
"What happened to Lucca happened to my son Jordan," she said in a statement provided by Rand's Miami law firm. "The sheriff’s deputies abuse our black and brown children on a regular basis here in Broward County. My husband and I have to stand up for our son."
But hours after the Bennett family's news conference, Sheriff Tony called one of his own. He said his deputy's actions were appropriate and his agency would not be investigating. He said he reviewed cell-phone, surveillance, and body-camera footage before deciding an investigation wasn't necessary.
"What you all in the media have been able to receive and release from a video standpoint is just a fraction of what this entire incident looked like," Tony told reporters. "I've had an opportunity to read my deputy's report. I've had an opportunity to look at the surveillance videos inside the school. I've had the opportunity to look at the body-worn camera. And the allegations that were made today by Mr. Bennett's attorney are not consistent and they're not accurate with what video footage shows."
According to WFOR, Tony also said Bennett assaulted and choked two school employees before the deputy's arrival. The sheriff said the takedown happened only after the teen lunged at one of the employees.
But Bennett's family insisted the deputy used excessive force. They said the teen was "provoked into a verbal argument" by another minority student, but neither of them got physical. They criticized the deputy for using force instead of trying to resolve the issue using verbal commands. Russell-Bennett told reporters she rushed to the school after getting a call from her daughter, who saw what happened.
"No, I'm not OK, just sitting there seeing my son's face all bloody, big gash on his head — you know, wondering if he had a concussion or anything like that," she said. "It was a scary moment."
Rand, who once represented the family of Trayvon Martin, called the agency's treatment of Rolle and Bennett "part of a pattern and practice of the systemic abuse of our children at the hands of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.”