The story told by police body cameras is even worse than the one initially reported last year, when school resource Officer Dennis Turner was fired for arresting 6-year-old Kaia Rolle for throwing a tantrum at her Orange County, Fla., charter school.
The video, shared by Kaia’s family with the Orlando Sentinel on Monday night, begins with the young girl sitting quietly in a room with a school employee, listening to a story being read to her. The employee, spotting two officers in her doorway, then tells Kaia that she has to go with the men.
“What are those for?” she asks, spotting the zip ties in the officer’s hand.
“They’re for you,” another officer responded, before fastening them onto her wrists.
As soon as she’s cuffed, Kaia begins wailing, “Help me!”
“Please let me go,” she gasps between cries. “I don’t want to go in the police car.”
Employees at the Lucious & Emma Nixon Academy expressed concern to Officer Turner after Kaia was marshaled into the car.
“The restraints, are they necessary?” one staffer asked, as others held their hands to their faces in disbelief.
“Yes,” Turner said, “If she was bigger, she would have been wearing regular handcuffs.”
Later, Turner bragged about the number of people he had arrested in his career—6,000 people, including children as young as 7, he said. When one of the employees pointed out Kaia was 6 years old, Turner responded: “Now she has broken the record.”
The arrest made headlines and led to Turner’s dismissal when it first occurred in September 2019. Kaia was charged with battery for kicking and punching three school employees that day—a result of her being exhausted from her sleep apnea condition, her grandmother Meralyn Kirkland said at the time.
Kirkland has been outspoken about the arrest—it was the second time that day Officer Turner arrested a child (he also attempted to arrest a 6-year-old boy at the same school, but employees prevented the arrest from being completed—details of that arrest have not been made public).
Even for Kirkland, the video revealed new details that reopened the wounds of the initial arrest.
“I knew that what they did was wrong, but I never knew she was begging for help,” Kirkland told the Sentinel Monday night. “I watched her break.”
Following Turner’s firing, which happened days after Kaia’s arrest was covered by outlets across the country, more details about the officer’s 23-year career with the Orlando Police Department were revealed. As the Sentinel reports, Turner was disciplined no less than seven times for violating department policy, including injuring his 7-year-old son. Records show Turner, who retired last year and was working in OPD’s Reserve Unit when he arrested Kaia, was also accused of racial profiling and sending threatening texts to his ex-wife.
By sharing the footage, Kirkland hopes people will be mobilized to change Florida law. While Turner violated department policy by arresting a child under the age of 12 without asking for a supervisor’s permission, there is no actual minimum age of arrest for the state. Following Kaia’s arrest, some lawmakers are proposing that be changed, barring all children under the age of 12 from being arrested.
She also wants to see more school resource officers receive training on how to work with young children.
Talking to the Sentinel about the impact watching the video had on her, Kirkland lingered on Turner’s words: “You’re discussing traumatizing a 6- and 7-year-old—and that’s a boasting right for you?” she said. “These are babies.”