Black Student Who Was Knocked Unconscious by Florida Officer Is ‘Traumatized’ and Seriously Injured, Family Says

Illustration for article titled Black Student Who Was Knocked Unconscious by Florida Officer Is ‘Traumatized’ and Seriously Injured, Family Says
Screenshot: @LouluNevy/ Twitter

Last week, The Root reported that a Black high school student was body-slammed and knocked unconscious by a school resource officer at Liberty High School in Kissimmee, Fla. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Department said the officer was trying to stop a fight between her and another student, but video footage of the incident recorded by another student has since gone viral and has understandably raised questions about police use of force, the necessity of police officers on school grounds and, of course, racism. Those concerns are likely to be compounded now that the girl’s family is speaking out saying that she was “traumatized” by the incident and that she’s suffered serious injuries.

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ABC News reports that 16-year-old Taylor Bracey suffered a concussion and is now experiencing headaches, blurred vision, memory loss, and sleep deprivation due to the head injury she sustained during the altercation, according to her mother Jamesha Bracey.

“She’s depressed, I’m depressed. We all are traumatized about what happened,” Bracey said at a news briefing outside the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Saturday. “I think, if this was a white girl, would this have happened to the white child?” Bracey also said her daughter told her that the altercation started because there were “some girls [who] wanted to jump her after school.”

The officer involved in the incident, Deputy Ethan Fournier, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation that is being conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement “to make sure that this is completely independent of our agency,” according to Sheriff Marcos Lopez.

Lopez said that Fournier took Taylor down because she “was not complying with lawful commands.”

Listen: I’ve been trying really hard not to go overboard in injecting my personal opinion into this story as I was not there, so let me just offer some insight as to why a lot of people aren’t going to buy the idea that Fournier’s actions were necessary.

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First, school fights happen every day, B. We can agree that students can’t just be allowed to fight each other because someone could be seriously injured, but then we’re back to the fact that, in this instance, the only one who appears to have seriously injured anyone is the cop. Second, my experience with police says that cops often let their egos cause them to react excessively when their authority is challenged by someone who is not immediately “complying with lawful commands”—especially when that person is Black. (Sandra Bland, anyone?) But let’s say that isn’t the case for Fournier and his use of force was somehow completely appropriate—there’s still the question of whether Fournier rendered aid once it was clear (or should have been clear) that he had knocked Taylor unconscious.

Lopez said that Tracey received medical attention at the scene, but civil attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family, said that Fournier did not attempt to render aid himself. In fact, in video footage of the incident, Fournier is seen pulling Taylor’s arms back and handcuffing her as she lay motionless after her head hit the ground—which one would think Fournier would have heard as the impact was clearly audible in the video.

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“He’s supposed to be trained,” Crump said, ABC reports. “It’s foreseeable that children may get in altercations at school. You’re not supposed to knock them unconscious. You’re supposed to be the person who knows how to de-escalate the situation. It’s just mind-boggling.”

“This is the adultification of Black children—that our children are seen as adults,” he continued. “No, no, this was a child.”

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Besides being a sheriff’s deputy and school resource officer, Fournier was reportedly the girls’ flag football coach at Liberty High, but will not be coaching the team until the investigation is concluded, according to the Osceola County School District. A spokesperson for the district, Dana Schafer, told ABC that school resource officers are not school district employees, but are appointed by the police department.

“It has been a difficult week for Liberty High students and staff,” Schafer said. “The entire staff and administration of Liberty High School remain committed to ensuring that we have a safe and positive learning environment for all students.”

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Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

DISCUSSION

Makes Me Wonder Why I Even Bring The Thunder

Sure, ego could be part of the issue, but we also know that there is a widespread training/culture issue, where the police are expected to exert and maintain absolute authority. https://harvardlawreview.org/2015/04/law-enforcements-warrior-problem/

Counterintuitively, the warrior mentality also makes policing less safe for both officers and civilians. Either through formal training or informal example, officers learn to both verbally and physically control the space they operate in. It is essential to set the proper tone for an encounter, and the tone that best preserves officer safety is widely thought to be one of “unquestioned command.” Even acting friendly, officers may be told, can make them a target. But like the use of physical force, the assertive manner in which officers set the tone of encounter can also set the stage for a negative response or a violent interaction that was, from the start, avoidable. From the warrior perspective, the solution is simple: the people with whom officers interact must accede, respecting officers’ authority by doing what they are told. The failure to comply is confirmation that the individual is an enemy for the Warrior to vanquish, physically if necessary. And this creates avoidable violence. Sue Rahr, a former sheriff and currently both the Director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and a member of President Obama’s Task Force on Twenty-First Century Policing, put it this way: “We do our recruits no favor if we train them to approach every situation as a war. To do so sets them up to create unnecessary resistance and risk of injury.” [emphasis added]

ACAB - In part because we train them to be exactly that.