Sheriff's deputies in Florida who were captured on video slamming a black teen into the ground and punching his head during an arrest are now facing criminal charges.
In April, cellphone video footage showed Broward County Sheriff's deputies violently pushing the head of a 15-year-old boy into the pavement and punching him during an incident in a McDonald's parking lot that involved students at J.P. Taravella High School in Tamarac. The footage went viral on Twitter with the hashtag #JusticeForLucca and prompted the sheriff to launch an investigation.
On Wednesday, the Broward State Attorney's Office announced that it had charged the deputies involved with several counts of battery, falsifying records, and attempting to falsify records.
According to the sheriff's department, the deputies had responded to a fight that afternoon involving about 200 students. As deputies were detaining some of the teens, the 15-year-old boy bent down to pick up a cell phone that another boy had dropped.
In his report, Sgt. Gregory LaCerra said he ordered the other boy to stay back, but the teenager “took an aggressive stance” and “bladed his body and began clenching his fists.”
LaCerra, 51, is facing two counts of battery for spraying the teen in the face with pepper spray and throwing him to the ground. Deputy Christopher Krickovich, who had been placed on restrictive duty after the videos swept social media, was also charged with two counts of battery for punching the student in the head with his fist.
Those officers, along with another deputy who was involved, Ralph Mackey, also falsified records and engaged in a conspiracy to "falsify the description of the circumstances of the juvenile's arrest," prosecutors allege.
The 15-year-old had originally been charged with assaulting one officer and resisting another, but the charges were dropped.
The battery and falsifying records charges against the deputies are first-degree misdemeanors and carry a maximum prison sentence of one year. They come a week after the sheriff suspended another deputy accused of punching an inmate who was handcuffed to a hospital bed in January.