A mother is angry and distraught after what she believes was racial profiling of her son when he was tased before being arrested by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper.
Trooper George Smyrnios was caught on surveillance video tasing 16-year-old Jack Rodeman more than once on the back deck of the teen’s girlfriend’s home, where he had permission to be.
The surveillance video shows Jack outside of his girlfriend’s Three Oaks community home waiting for her to answer the door after texting her.
According to the report Trooper Smyrnios tased him after “he failed to comply”.
“My girlfriend that lives here is going to come outside. I didn’t do nothing,” Jack said, in the surveillance video.
He told his girlfriend via text, “Great, a state trooper just turned around and followed me,” and she replied “It’s OK. You’re not doing anything wrong,” according to Jack’s mother Kristina Rodeman who read the text messages to us.
*Warning: This video contains strong language.
But Smyrnios didn’t see it that way. He asked Jack to put his hands behind his back.
“I didn’t do nothing,” Rodeman reiterated. The taser fired and Jack screamed as the trooper continued to shock him with the taser.
“I mean my son was just standing there on his phone. He wasn’t reaching in his pockets. The officer? There was no threat to that officer,” Kristina said.
“I just don’t understand. I just don’t understand, and then for him to keep zapping my son after he hit like that. I just think something needs to be done.”
WINK News showed her the official Florida Highway Patrol report. Trooper Smyrnios wrote that:
the defendant described as a ‘suspicious person’ dressed in black pants, a black sweater/hoodie and black tennis shoes looked up and saw the trooper in his patrol car and immediately ‘darted’ and hid in thick shubbery.
“What?” Kristina said, shaking her head.
WINK News checked the crime map of the area near the Timber Lakes neighborhood for the past year. In total, six burglaries popped up with the most recent happening in January. It was about half a mile away from the neighborhood itself.
Smyrnios said in the report that he followed Jack into his girlfriend’s backyard and tased him when he refused to put his hands behind his back.
You can hear Smyrnios talking to Jack in the video; “You think you can just do whatever you want but you can’t,” he said.
Kristina says, yes, her son should’ve listened, but Smyrnios went too far. “I know that my son probably would have admitted to anything at that point because he didn’t want to be zapped anymore.”
Moments after Jack was tased, his girlfriend came out of the home and saw her boyfriend in custody.
Kristina told WINK News that her son has been in pain since being tased and she plans to sue FHP for excessive force.
“My opinion… If that would have been a white boy walking down the street, he probably would have been flipped around,” Kristina said.
His mom wants the trooper who tased her son to pay for what he’s done. “I just want justice for my son. I want him to know that I am going to fight for him.”
“I told him, ‘you do the right thing, I always will fight for you, son.’ You just have to do the right thing,” she said.
Kristina isn’t the only person upset by Smyrnios’ actions. While none of the Timber Lakes neighbors wanted to talk on camera for fear of retaliation, they do say Jack didn’t deserve what happened to him.
Trooper Smyrnios has not been suspended. However, his actions are under investigation by FHP supervisors.
Below is a statement from Florida Highway Patrol about the investigation:
“The Florida Highway Patrol is committed to public safety of citizens and property. In regards to the June 16, 2021 incident, a taser deployment occurred. An administrative review of the incident immediately commenced and remains ongoing. Upon completion, the results of the administrative review will become a public record.”
WINK News Investigative Reporter Lauren Sweeney has been trying to get answers from FHP about this.
The agency has not said anything and is expected to keep details under wraps until its investigation is complete.
WINK News took the video to a local attorney Chris Brown and former officer Dave Thomas who trains police officers on the use of force. Both of these experts say the actions of this trooper are egregious and that the teen’s arrest was unlawful.
Trooper Smyrnios is no rookie and has worn an FHP trooper’s uniform for more than 20 years.
Brown, an attorney for more than 20 years, said he’s never seen someone arrested for a public order crime, failing to obey, saying, “It falls under the traffic statutes for disobeying and officers lawful command and a traffic situation,” he said.
There was no traffic situation other than that it started when Smyrnios saw Jack walking down the street in the middle of the day. Then, the trooper saw him dart behind some bushes.
Smyrnios described it in the report as “behavior, demeanor, and body language appeared to be a burglar.”
Thomas, our second expert, is a longtime officer turned professor who trains current and future police officers. “My question is what does a burglar look like? Unless you catch somebody, like, prowling, there’s something that has to distinguish that. There’s nothing that distinguishes that other than being a Black kid in black clothing, that’s it,” Thomas said.
He said the trooper’s narrative and the fact that the teen walked away from him and didn’t put his hands behind his back does not justify the tasing, adding, “You don’t just take out a Taser and shoot somebody when there’s no active resistance; he’s not in a fighting stance, he’s not being verbally abusive.”
Brown was surprised the teen was only originally charged with the odd traffic charge and resisting arrest. There is a Florida statute that says you can detain someone under loitering and prowling to determine if their reason to be there is lawful.
A day after the original arrest, FHP added a loitering and prowling charge and updated that original narrative.
“So they amended the charge because they’re trying to go back and cover their bases,” Thomas said.
But, in both Thomas’ and Brown’s opinions, the facts still don’t justify this arrest.
“This was more than just a bad arrest, it was a bad arrest with a significant amount of force and injury.”
Thomas, being a former officer, normally leans on the side of giving officers the benefit of the doubt, but this interview was different. Why?
“Because the actions were egregious,” he said.
Trooper Smyrnios did find some medical marijuana on the teen, so he will also face a drug possession charge. The experts don’t think that charge will stick because the initial arrest was unlawful.
“The next day he brought more charges to my son which is loitering and prowling but at first it was resisting without violence and possession of marijuana,” Kristina said.
The surveillance video of the arrest was not provided to or seen by the judge before initially appearing in court. Right now, Jack is still in jail where he’ll remain for 21 days.