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Florida mother says her son, 16, tased in back garden in alleged racial profiling case

·3-min read
Jack Rodeman, 16, from Florida was tased twice by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on 16 June - in an incident his mother claims is racial profiling  (Screengrab/CBS12)
Jack Rodeman, 16, from Florida was tased twice by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on 16 June - in an incident his mother claims is racial profiling (Screengrab/CBS12)

A Florida mother has claimed that her 16-year-old son of colour was tased twice by a state trooper in the back garden of his girlfriend’s house, allegedly in a case of racial profiling.

Jack Rodeman was visiting his girlfriend in an upscale neighbourhood of Fort Meyers last week when he was confronted by trooper George Smyrnios, who said the teen looked like a “suspicious person” dressed in black, according to CBS12.

The teen was standing in the backyard of the house, texting his girlfriend to answer the door when the trooper followed him. The CCTV footage of the incident showed the trooper tasing him. Jack fell back and hit his head on the bricked patio.

The teen was charged with loitering, possession of medical marijuana and failure to obey the officer among other charges, and sent to a juvenile detention centre for 21 days.

The teen’s mother Kristina Rodeman claimed he was profiled as he is biracial and that it was use of “excessive force.”

“I think he was totally profiled, that cop turned around and followed him back that direction,” said Ms Rodeman, according to CBS Miami. “It’s a Black kid in black clothes.”

"I’m going after him for excessive force," she said about Mr Smyrnios, reported USA Today, adding that she is exploring legal options.

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"I’ve read about things they have to follow or abide by also and from what I’m seeing he had no right to do that. They have rules they have to go by, too. I don’t want this to happen to another child," she said.

Mr Smyrnios said the teen “darted” into shrubs after spotting the officer and his "behaviour, demeanour and body language" looked to be that of a burglar or someone who was about to commit a crime. He said he “could not see (Jack’s) hands” and “I was concerned that he might have a weapon.”

The trooper claimed the teen did not comply with his instructions when he asked him to put his hands behind his head. “I didn’t do nothing…” Jack is heard saying in the video.

The mother has hired an attorney to fight the arrest and visited her son at the juvenile centre. “I’m glad he’s still alive,” she said.

"His girlfriend lives right there. He (Smyrnios) didn’t dart into the bushes,” she said.

She said she did not see any signs of injuries but he complained of having headaches and his back hurt.

The incident has caused furore on social media with several people weighing in on the overuse of force on the teen.

Prominent civil rights lawyer Ben Crump said the trooper should be held accountable for his unlawful actions.

“FHP trooper George Smyrnios repeatedly tased 16yo Jack Rodeman as he waited for his girlfriend on her back deck!,” he tweeted. “Smyrnios hasn’t been suspended or punished for his unlawful actions against this teen who posed NO THREAT! He should be held accountable for his egregious actions!”

The incident is under administrative review by Florida Highway Patrol and findings would be shared with the public upon completion.

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