A Florida police department faces criticism after one of its officers was filmed punching a 14-year-old girl in her side as she was held to the ground.
Video posted to Instagram by a woman identifying herself as the teen’s cousin shows the girl lying face down with two officers holding her when one of them strikes her twice in her side. Her hands appear to be beneath her during the Thursday incident.
The Coral Springs Police Department, in a statement posted online Friday, said the officer’s use of force was needed to get the teen to release her clenched fists as she resisted arrest following calls about a juvenile disturbance at a mall.
“Officers attempted to take her into custody, at which time she began to fight and resist arrest,” the department said. “Due to her stature and aggressive behavior, officers took her to the ground attempting to get her to release her fists. As seen in the video she resisted arrest, and in order to have her to comply she was struck in the side to release her clenched fists ― she was then handcuffed.”
In the process of transporting her to the patrol car, the girl “violently kicked one of the officers,” the department added.
The arrest followed police being called in response to a group of teens reportedly harassing customers, including pushing a 5-year-old child to the ground.
The teenagers were banned from the mall, as requested by the shopping center’s security team, but some of them allegedly returned and resumed their antics. The girl who was filmed and arrested allegedly was cursing and trying to incite her companions.
A male teen was also taken into custody, the police department said.
The girl’s mother, Jessica Dennis, who did not want her daughter named, called the officer’s actions “completely overboard.”
“Her hands are pinned up, he’s fishtailing her whole body with her shorts. It was just too much going on and she clearly wasn’t aggressive,” Dennis said at a news conference, according to CBS Miami.
The family’s attorney, Meeghan Moldof, said the video supports the girl’s defense.
“It’s clear from the video that my client was on the ground. Her hands are under her belly, the officer’s knees are on her back, and he’s just gut-shotting her, like one after another,” said Moldof, according to 7 News Miami.
The teen, who was booked into the Juvenile Assessment Center in Fort Lauderdale, reportedly faces three separate charges. Her family is reviewing legal action.