Video: Florida Officer Repeatedly Tases Confused Teen Crash Victim | Miami New Times


VIDEO: Florida Keys Deputy Repeatedly Tases Panicking Teenage Crash Victim

"I'm sorry sir!" Rivero cries after he was tased repeatedly. "Please lord, please help me!"
According to the lawsuit, 19-year-old Jordan Rivero suffered a grand mal seizure after being tased in Tavernia, Florida.
According to the lawsuit, 19-year-old Jordan Rivero suffered a grand mal seizure after being tased in Tavernia, Florida. Screenshot via Monroe County Sheriff's Office body camera footage
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In the early morning hours of July 3, 2022, firefighting cadet Jordan Rivero was heading back from a fishing trip in the Florida Keys with some friends when the driver purportedly fell asleep and veered off the road, crashing into a concrete pole. Police arrived on the scene just before dawn to find Rivero and another passenger severely injured and trapped in the mangled pickup truck.

A new federal lawsuit claims that rather than help Rivero, deputies from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office treated the then-19-year-old crash victim like a "suspect in custody" — with one officer repeatedly tasing the panicking teen after he refused to comply with orders to remain seated.

Rivero's head slammed into the concrete, and police held him face-down in a pool of his own blood.

"Jordan was never accused of a crime, nor was he dangerous. He was a victim of a serious car accident and in need of medical attention," Rivero's attorney, Dena Foman, wrote in a statement to New Times. "The egregious actions of the police officers caused him great harm and further injury that will last him a lifetime."

The lawsuit alleges that after the deputy tased Rivero four times in a row following the crash, the teenager suffered a grand mal seizure. Though the pleading acknowledges Rivero was hurt in the accident, Foman says sheriff's deputies inflicted additional serious injuries that left her client unable to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter.

In the moments leading up to the violent encounter, body-worn camera footage shows deputies restraining the teenager and ordering him to stay seated near the crash site. At one point, he becomes frantic, desperately trying to escape their control.

According to the sheriff's office report, Rivero struck a sergeant before another officer deployed the Taser. The sergeant noted in the report that he would be unable to justify charging the crash victim over the tussle since it appeared he was confused and unaware of his surroundings.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the case, citing the pending litigation.

"I Don't Want to Fish Anymore"

The bodycam footage shows a clearly disoriented Rivero, with blood dripping down his forehead, climb out of the Toyota pickup truck around 6 a.m. as a rescue crew congregates around the vehicle. Police grab him by the arm and force him into a sitting position on the sidewalk while he weeps after the crash. At one point, Rivero attempts to stand when two officers lead him back toward the ground. "Sit down man, relax," one officer tells the hysterical teen.

The video captures a pair of officers advising Rivero to take a deep breath and calm down when, suddenly, Rivero breaks loose and wrestles from their grasp while crying. After a few seconds, he obeys one of the officer's commands to stay seated.

"Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Rivero says, lowering his body onto the ground.

Moments later, the footage shows Rivero breaking free of officers' grip again, stumbling around the crash site seemingly in a daze and appearing to flail an arm towards at least one officer in the process. Within seconds, and without a verbal warning, one of the officers deploys his Taser at Rivero. "Get on the fucking ground!" he yells.

"Yo, what the fuck is wrong with you guys?" Rivero cries.

The officer tases Rivero once more, causing him to fall sideways onto the pavement, his already bloodied head slamming onto the ground and his body thrashing from the voltage. The video shows the teen writhing in pain on the ground as the officer continues to stun him with the weapon.

"I'm sorry, sir. I'm sorry, sir!" Rivero weeps. "Please lord, please help me!"

The video shows Rivero repeatedly begging for his friend, Tyler, to help him. He insists that he can't breathe. "Bro, you’re in shock," the friend tells Rivero. When an officer asks Tyler whether Rivero is intoxicated, he insists Rivero "doesn't take anything."

"Then why is he acting the way he is?" the officer asks, to which Tyler responds, "Because we're in shock right now."

Several officers can be heard questioning that account, with one surmising that Rivero was simply "fucked up." Meanwhile, the footage shows Rivero still crying and yelling on the ground, his face now completely drenched in blood.

"I don't wanna fish anymore," he exclaims, seemingly confused. "I can’t fish."

"You’re going to the hospital man, relax," Tyler reassures him.

Rivero was transported to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier for treatment of a head injury, bleeding around the brain, a broken nose, and hypoxic respiratory failure that prompted medical staff to place him on mechanical ventilation. He was transferred by helicopter to Kendall Regional Hospital, where he stayed until his discharge on July 8, 2022.

Case for Excessive Force

Rivero was in a panic after the car accident, by all accounts, but according to the lawsuit, he was encircled by emergency vehicles and posed no danger to police or passing motorists.

"[The officers] ignored the signs of Mr. Rivero’s physical trauma, shock, and panic, and were instead dismissive of Mr. Rivero’s complaints, in complete disregard of their training to provide medical assistance to the victim of an accident," the lawsuit alleges.

Rivero and his lawyer say that the now-20-year-old still struggles to run or walk long distances without suffering shortness of breath. His injuries left him unable to complete the necessary test to become a firefighter like his father, a lifelong goal of Rivero.

Dyllon Hansen (the deputy who deployed the taser), the sergeant, and one other officer are named as defendants alongside the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

The police report states that when Rivero climbed out of the wrecked truck, he was in a state of confusion and started to "become aggressive and uncooperative." The sergeant wrote that Hansen used the Taser on Rivero after the teenager refused to sit down and struck the sergeant in the fight that followed.

"After a short time Rivero jumped up and began running around. He was screaming and becoming hostile," the sergeant wrote. "It was clear that Rivero was panicked and not making rational decisions."

"Rivero appeared to begin going to the ground as I approached but he then lunged forward and struck me on the left side of my face with his right fist," the report states.

In order to hold Monroe County liable for excessive force, Rivero and his attorney will have to show that the officers' actions were "objectively unreasonable."

In cases where plaintiffs sue over police violence against them while they were experiencing a medical crisis or suffering from mental illness, courts typically weigh whether the subject was acting so erratically at the time that they could harm themselves or others, intentionally or not.

A recent ruling in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a man who had been tased by police after he drove into another car in Madison, Alabama, and then refused to heed officers' orders that he sit down on a stretcher. The appeals court found that an officer did not violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights by deploying a taser on him a single time after the man, seemingly in a daze, repeatedly tried to get back into his vehicle — a move which could be perceived as a danger, especially since he had just caused a crash, according to the court.

On the other hand, the appeals court in 2021 issued a preliminary ruling in favor of a plaintiff who had been tased by police at a Rainbow City concert while she was suffering from a seizure condition and acting erratically. The 11th Circuit denied immunity to the police officer who tased the girl, finding that she did not appear to pose a danger.

As was the case with the litigation over the Rainbow City incident, Rivero's lawsuit must show a violation of clearly established constitutional rights in order to overcome officers' immunity and hold them individually liable for his injuries.  
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