Attorney Ben Crump. Courtesy photo
A prominent civil rights attorney has been retained to represent the family of a Broward County teen whose violent arrest made national headlines.
Civil rights litigator Ben Crump held a news conference Thursday at the Broward County Public Defender’s Office calling for the state attorney's office to file assault and battery charges against the officers who arrested Delucca Rolle on April 18.
The Tallahassee attorney was joined by NAACP officials as well as Rolle's mother Clintina and other family members.
"We believe the video provides ocular proof of who really committed a crime that day," Crump said, referencing the viral video of Rolle's arrest by Broward sheriff Sgt. Gregory LaCerra and Deputy Christopher Krickovich.
The cellphone video depicts LaCerra and Krickovich pepper spraying the teen before repeatedly slamming his face into the ground and punching his head, leaving behind blood stains on the pavement.
Rolle had no prior arrests and was unarmed when he was taken into custody. He was charged with resisting arrest, assault on an officer and trespassing.
But Crump contended "the only individuals that assaulted and battered anybody was the Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies."
"When you watch that video, it is heartbreaking," Crump said. "We want it to be clear to the state attorney that we expect — no, that we demand — that you hold everybody accountable on that video, who committed a crime. If you need us to … we will lend you a hand and point out specifically the crimes that were committed."
The Broward Sheriff's Office did not respond to repeated requests for comment by deadline.
Watch the press conference:
In conversation with the Daily Business Review, Crump called Rolle's treatment "outrageous."
"When you view the video there is no evidence that Rolle committed any crime whatsoever," Crump said. "We refuse to let them sweep this under the rug."
Crump alleged in his press conference remarks there was a “conspiracy to cover up and try to justify” the incident. He said his colleague, Fort Lauderdale litigator Sue-Ann Robinson, was "shocked" to learn Rolle had never been arrested before, yet had been held in custody overnight at a detention facility.
"That is just egregious as what happened on that video," Crump said, contending the 15 year-old was unable to receive the medical care he needed after the assault. According to the attorney, Rolle was diagnosed with a fractured nose, as well as head and shoulder injuries.
"We believe he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder," his attorney said.
Prosecutors dropped the charges against Rolle but Crump said, "Nothing should’ve been brought on him in the first place."
"Communities of color, we think that there’s two sets of justice," Crump said. "When we are accused of a crime … you don’t have to have any evidence at all to have us held accountable to the full extent of the law. However, when law enforcement officers commit crimes against us, it's swept under the rug and they're never held accountable."
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony disagreed with the state attorney's decision to drop charges against Rolle. He’s also resisted pressure to fire LaCerra and Krickovich based on the video and instead cited the need for an internal affairs investigation.
But Crump appeared skeptical and said the sheriff's actions "will speak louder than his words.”
"It's so very clear they assaulted and battered this kid, and there shouldn’t be any qualified immunity" for the officers, Crump said. "Any attempt to condone what happened in that video to this unarmed 15 year-old child ... deepens the chasm of mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement."
Gregory and Krickovich have been suspended without pay after being placed on restricted administrative assignment.
Crump told a reporter, "We're not dealing with lawsuits right now" during the news conference.
"I don’t want to in any way say that we’re not going to sue the Broward Sheriff’s office. ... But that’s not the priority at this moment," he said. "The priority at this moment is making sure we get justice for Delucca Rolle."
Litigator Calls on DOJ to Investigate Alleged Police Violence Against Black Women in South Florida
Lawyer on Familiar Ground in Sacramento Police Shooting
Trayvon Martin Family Attorney Ben Crump Champions Wrongfully Convicted in New TV Series