The deputy seen on video pepper-spraying a teenager in a Tamarac parking lot told a Broward judge Wednesday that the teenager, Delucca Rolle, was the aggressor in the confrontation.
Sgt. Gregory LaCerra and former deputy Christopher Krickovich are each facing misdemeanor battery charges for their conduct during Rolle’s April 19, 2019, arrest. This week they are asking Broward County Judge Jill K. Levy to dismiss the charges because, they say, they were acting in self defense.
Testifying publicly for the first time since Rolle’s head-slamming arrest, LaCerra told Levy that Rolle, 15 at the time, instigated the confrontation by inserting himself into the arrest of his friend, Gary Dieureslil.
Dieureslil was being accused of trespassing in the parking area of a McDonald’s at the Town Square Plaza in Tamarac.
LaCerra, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, told the judge that he and Krickovich were among many who responded to the scene on April 18, 2019, when a large group of teenagers congregated at the plaza the day after a raucous fight caused damage to vehicles and property.
Krickovich was arresting Dieureslil when Rolle reached over to grab his friend’s phone, which had fallen to the ground.
“We were being surrounded,” LaCerra said. “The environment was hostile toward law enforcement officers. This was a scary moment in my career.”
On bystander and bodycam video, LaCerra can be seen shoving Rolle away from the cellphone. What happened next may decide the difference between whether LaCerra and Krickovich are cleared or will have to sell their defense to a jury.
The videos show Rolle standing up after he was pushed. Rolle testified on Friday that he was thrown off balance when he was pushed and merely trying to regain his footing when LaCerra blasted him with pepper spray.
LaCerra remembered Rolle’s response differently. He said Rolle took a “pre-attack posture” — a fighting stance known among police officers as “blading.”
“This was an assault,” said LaCerra. Under Florida law, an assault is a threat of violence, whether or not it is expressed in words.
The future of the case, at least for LaCerra, likely will hinge on the judge’s interpretation of what the videos show. Krickovich, who may testify as early as Thursday, has different questions to answer. According to the videos, Krickovich jumped on Rolle after LaCerra had brought him down. It was Krickovich who grabbed Rolle by the head and slammed him into the asphalt, punching him multiple times on the side of the head in the process.
LaCerra said the display of force was necessary to protect the public and his fellow deputies.
“We have to worry about our gun retention,” he said. “It was extremely dangerous to have that many people get that close to us.”
During Rolle’s testimony on Friday, defense lawyers backed him into admitting he was dishonest about his answer to one question — whether he had seen police at the plaza during a brawl on April 17, the day before Rolle’s own arrest. Rolle’s civil lawyer, Sue-Ann Robinson, dismissed the relevance of the admission.
“We’re talking about a teenager who was beaten by police,” she said. “What difference does it make if he remembers what he saw the day before? What matters is on that day, police slammed his head on the ground without justification.”
The ‘stand your ground’ hearing for LaCerra and Krickovich is scheduled to continue Thursday.
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