Video of teen’s head-slam arrest leads to criminal charges against 3 Broward deputies

Video shows Broward deputies pepper-spraying, punching teen

Video posted on social media shows Broward sheriff's deputies pepper-spraying and punching a teen during a confrontation near J.P. Taravella High.
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Video posted on social media shows Broward sheriff's deputies pepper-spraying and punching a teen during a confrontation near J.P. Taravella High.

Three Broward Sheriff’s deputies have been charged for their roles in the violent arrest in April of a black high-school freshman, who was pepper-sprayed, punched and slammed head first into the asphalt of a McDonald’s parking lot in Tamarac.

The rough takedown of 15-year-old DeLucca Rolle was captured on cellphone video and sparked near-immediate backlash, prompting online outrage from elected officials and celebrities like NBA star LeBron James, Miami Dolphins player Kenny Stills and NBA coach Steve Kerr. The video was viewed more than 11 million times by April 25.

Broward State Attorney Mike Satz announced Wednesday that charges were filed against Sgt. Gregory LaCerra and deputies Christopher Krickovich and Ralph Mackey.

LaCerra, 51, was charged with two counts of battery for spraying Rolle in the face with pepper spray and throwing him down. He was also charged with one count of falsifying records and one count of conspiracy to falsify “the description of the circumstances of the juvenile’s arrest,” the Broward State Attorney’s Office said.

Krickovich, 29, is facing two counts of battery for slamming Rolle’s face to the pavement and punching him in the head. Krickovich was also charged with two counts of falsifying records and a single count of conspiracy to falsify records.

Mackey was not charged in the rough arrest, but he faces one count of falsifying records and another count of conspiracy to falsify records.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office suspended the three deputies without pay following Wednesday’s announcement.

The arrest occurred near J.P. Taravella High School, which Rolle attends. The State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against the student — assaulting an officer and obstruction without violence — after the teen’s family hired renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump. Crump made headlines when he represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Miami-Dade teen who was killed outside his father’s home in Sanford by George Zimmerman.

In a statement, Rolle’s attorneys said the charges against the deputies are a step in the right direction.

“Wearing a badge is not a license to hurt children and then lie about it — with these charges, the world can now see clearly that is what happened,” said Crump and attorney Sue-Ann Robinson, who are working together to represent Rolle. “The fact that the officers were charged with falsifying records and conspiracy to falsify records is rare, and it may represent a new trend in accountability for law enforcement officials.”

Krickovich and LaCerra were suspended following the rough arrest. In Rolle’s arrest report, Krickovich said the deputies were being “threatened” by teenagers at the McDonald’s. The group of high schoolers had gathered to watch a fight. The police union representing the deputies said the officers used appropriate force, according to their policy.

The battery and falsifying records charges are first-degree misdemeanors, which carry maximum punishments of up to a year in jail, according to the State Attorney’s Office. The conspiracy charges are second-degree misdemeanors, which carry punishments of up to 60 days in jail.

The deputies’ initial court appearances have not been scheduled, but they are expected to appear in Broward County Court for arraignment in the “coming weeks,” the State Attorney’s Office said.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, who was appointed to the position in January by Gov. Ron DeSantis following the removal of Scott Israel, has worked to clean house at BSO and scrub away the controversy created during his predecessor’s tenure.

As part of Tony’s purge of Israel’s commanding staff, 22 BSO employees resigned or were dismissed in his first month on the job. Israel’s time as Broward’s top cop came to an end amid criticism of his leadership and his deputies’ response to the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Tony, a former Coral Springs Police sergeant, had launched a private law-enforcement training firm specializing in mass-casualty incidents when DeSantis appointed him the new sheriff, a decision met with positive responses from Parkland parents.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony announced that two additional deputies have been fired as a result of the agency’s internal affairs investigation into the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland at BSO headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Wednesday, June 26, 2019. Joe Cavaretta South Florida Sun Sentinel

But he has struggled with controversies of his own. Following the release of the Tamarac video, Tony came under fire from the local chapter of the NAACP and attended a contentious meeting with Tamarac city officials during which he defended his disciplinary methods. He also criticized the State Attorney’s Office for dropping the charges against Rolle.

After the teen’s arrest, a video was released showing a deputy punching a suspect handcuffed to a hospital bed on New Year’s Day. Deputy Jorge Sobrino was charged with misdemeanor battery. Tony also engaged in finger-pointing with Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein following the sucker-punch of a public defender by an inmate in Broward bond court in late March.

And the teen in the McDonald’s video, Rolle, was arrested again on June 28 after Lauderhill Police said he was a passenger in a stolen car and resisted an officer without violence.

His attorneys issued a statement in response to the arrest, calling it suspicious.

“We are still investigating, but the circumstances surrounding his arrest seem suspicious,” the statement said.