St. Petersburg police officer Bobby Johnson claimed he was in fear for his safety when a middle school student came charging towards him, leaving him no choice but to pull out his taser and defend himself from the boy.
But video recorded by a witness shows the boy standing still several feet from the cop when he was tasered. The boy then drops to the floor without his arms breaking his fall which could have resulted in the boy striking his head as we’ve seen so many times.
“My son could have died,” Lakeshia Aikens told WFLA. “The way he hit the ground. I was like, ‘Whoa.'”
It’s no wonder the Pinellas County School District is refusing to release a surveillance video that recorded the incident, which took place inside the cafeteria at John Hopkins Middle School where Johnson works as a school resource officer. WFLA published its article Friday but did not specify when the incident took place.
The district is claiming it is bound by law to keep the video under wraps because releasing it would “violate student privacy laws and/or reveal confidential and exempt safety and security information.”
The district is also claiming it cannot release the video because the cop is not an employee of the school district even though he is paid by the school district and works in the school district and apparently has more authority over the students than school staff.
All we know at this time is that the boy was tasered after a fight took place between two girls.
The district’s statement sent to WFLA is posted below.
Pinellas County Schools does not release video taken on campus to parents as it can violate student privacy laws and/or reveal confidential and exempt safety and security information (per 1002.221, F.S. and ss. 119.071(3)(a) and 281.301, F.S.)
The School Resource Officer who deployed his taser is not an employee of Pinellas County Schools. It would be up to the St. Petersburg Police Department to determine if his actions were appropriate. Pinellas County Schools staff will work with the St. Petersburg Police Department as they review the incident.”
St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said the video that has surfaced was taken out of context because it did not capture the terrifying fear the officer was experiencing in that split-second moment.
“I think what leads up to that first time that’s most important because for an officer to feel that he needs to rise to a use of force to deploy his taser means that he either felt threatened or felt he needed to get the situation under control very quickly,” Fernandez said.
It is not clear at this time if the cop was wearing a body cam but body cams were not introduced to the department until October of last year and were met with reluctance from the police chief, according to WFTS.
Video of the tasering can be seen in this news report.