A Florida police deputy has been placed on restricted duty after cellphone video footage surfaced of two white officers slamming the head of a pepper-sprayed black teenager against the ground while placing him under arrest on Thursday.
Thousands of people shared videos of the incident on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend, tagging them "#JusticeForLucca," and demanding that the officers be fired or prosecuted.
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a statement Friday that the department would conduct a "thorough investigation" into the incident and said that Deputy Christopher Krickovich, one of the officers pictured in the video, had been placed on restricted duty.
In an arrest warrant affidavit, Krickovich said that the teenage boy — who has been identified on social media as "Lucca" or "DeLucca" — took an "aggressive stance" toward his partner while they were arresting another teenager for trespassing.
The15-year-old appeared in court Friday morning, where he was formally charged with assault, resisting arrest, and trespassing.
On Monday, Broward State Attorney Mike Satz announced in a statement that his office was also investigating the arrest and his "prosecutors and investigators" have scheduled a meeting Tuesday "with the attorney for the 15-year-old student."
Video of the arrest began to circulate on social media soon after the incident occurred, but it went viral Saturday after it was shared on Twitter by activist and Church of God in Christ Bishop Talbert Swan.
In the affidavit, Krickovich said that he and his partner, Sgt. Greg LaCerra, responded to a call from a McDonald’s in Tamarac, Florida, at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday after employees reported a large group of teenagers gathering for a fight outside the restaurant. He wrote that the McDonald's was a popular after-school gathering place for students from a nearby high school and the scene of frequent fights — including an incident the day before that had caused damage to a bystander's car.
Krickovich and LaCerra arrived after the fight had ended, per the affidavit. As they ordered the crowd of teens to disperse, they identified one of the perpetrators from Wednesday's fight who had been warned not to trespass in the area again and took him into custody.
“While I was dealing with the male on the ground, I observed his phone slide to the right of me and then behind me. I observed a teen wearing a red tank top reach down and attempt to grab the male student’s phone,” Krickovich wrote.
When LaCerra ordered the other boy to stay back, he said, the teenager “took an aggressive stance” toward the officer and “bladed his body and began clenching his fists.”
LaCerra pepper-sprayed the teen in the face and forced him to the ground, Krickovich wrote. There were more than 200 students in the crowd, according to Krickovich, and this is when many of them started recording the incident on their phones.
Per the affidavit, the officers feared for their safety and worked to restrain the teenager on the ground in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Krickovich said that he hit the 15-year-old with a closed fist on the right side of his head as "a distractionary technique" to get the teen to release his right hand from under his head. "This technique was successful and I was able to place him into handcuffs without further incident."
Additional videos of the incident taken by other students surfaced on social media throughout the weekend.
The original video and others that emerged were shared across Twitter and Facebook on Saturday, with many calling for the officers in question to be fired or prosecuted for brutality.
In a preplanned meeting with black leaders Saturday, Broward County Sheriff Tony said that he was taking the investigation into the matter seriously but emphasized the importance of following the appropriate procedures.
"That’s the most electrifying and dangerous situation for a law enforcement administrator to handle. Any time a white deputy is involved in contact with using force on a black youth, this thing blows up," he said. "How we handle that from an administrative standpoint has to be very tactful."
"I’m not going to sit and try to brush anything under the table," he said. "The facts are what they are.”