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Florida teens who recorded drowning and laughed could be charged

A group of Florida teenagers who used cellphones to record a man who was drowning and laughed about it rather than calling for help could face charges, according to the police chief in Cocoa, Fla.

Group of 5 boys did not help or call 911 as they took cellphone video of man in distress

A cellphone video shot by a group of teens showed Jamel Dunn drowning in a Florida pond. The teens did not call police. (YouTube)

A group of Florida teenagers who used cellphones to record a man who was drowning and laughed about it rather than calling for help could face charges, according to the police chief in Cocoa, Fla.

The five teenagers, ages 14 to 16, can be heard laughing as they record more than two minutes of the man struggling to stay afloat in a pond near his family's home.

The boys can be heard taunting the man, saying that he was "going to die."

"Ain't nobody going to help you, you dumb bitch. You shouldn't have got in there," one of the boys says.

When Jamel Dunn, 31, slips beneath the water, a voice can be heard saying "he dead" and there is laughing.

Teen who suggests calling police dismissed

One of the teens then suggested calling police, but was dismissed by his friends.

The video of the drowning, shared online by the teens, has stirred outrage among viewers.

On Friday, the office of State Attorney Phil Archer issued a statement saying that charges were unlikely.

"We were asked to make a preliminary review of the video regarding any potential charges for failure to provide aid," the state attorney's office said. "Unfortunately, there is currently no statute in Florida law that compels an individual to render, request or seek aid for a person in distress. We are, however, continuing to research whether any other statute may apply to the facts of this case."
Jamel Dunn drowned in a pond near his family's home. (Sheriff`s Office /Associated Press)

Later in the day Cocoa police Chief Michael Cantaloupe said he will recommend the state attorney prosecute the teens under a statute that requires a person with knowledge of a death to notify a medical examiner.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a 2012 legal argument, summarized that across the U.S. there's no general duty to render aid to someone in distress.

"You don't have the duty to rescue someone if that person is in danger. The blind man is walking in front of a car and you do not have a duty to stop him absent some relation between you," Kennedy said in arguments on the Affordable Care Act.

Kennedy added that there are "some severe moral criticisms of that rule, but that's generally the rule."

Any charges the teens do face would be misdemeanors.

Dunn's family filed a missing person's report on July 12, three days after the drowning. His body was recovered from the water on July 14.

Teens interviewed by police

The teens were interviewed by police after Dunn's sister called police attention to the video.

Cocoa Police Department spokesperson Yvonne Martinez expressed disgust at their behaviour, saying not all the teens showed remorse at their actions.

As juveniles, they cannot be named.  

"I've been doing this a long time, probably 20 years or more ... I was horrified. My jaw dropped," Martinez told CNN.

With files from The Associated Press