A 16-year-old is in custody after being tased by an FHP trooper last week while waiting outside of his girlfriend’s home, where he had permission to be.
The video has been viewed by millions and has caused many to question whether FHP Trooper George Smyrnios acted correctly when he stunned Jack Rodeman.
Smyrnios said he started following Jack because the teen looked like a suspicious person. Smyrnios used the Taser against Jack after the teen didn’t respond to orders to put his hands behind his back. Instead, Jack stood and continued texting on his cellphone while saying he didn’t do anything.
The question is: was it right for Jack not to listen?
It’s a complicated answer for David J. Thomas, a professor of forensic studies at FGCU who is also a former police officer. Thomas says Jack didn’t do anything wrong, but Thomas also made it clear no one, not an adult or teenager, will win a battle with a person in uniform. The time to fight back, Thomas says, is in court.
Kristina Rodeman is Jack’s mother. She also has a daughter.
“I think that if it was my daughter walking down the street, she wouldn’t have been stopped,” Rodeman said. “It’s because it was my son.”
Jack is mixed-race.
His walk to his girlfriend’s house in a Three Oaks home ended with Smyrnios confronting him in his girlfriend’s backyard and then stunning the teen twice. The incident was caught on surveillance footage.
*Warning: This video contains strong language.
“My girlfriend that lives here is going to come outside,” Jack tells Smyrnios in the video.
“I didn’t do nothing,” he said as Smyrnios pointed his Taser at Jack.
Smyrnios said Jack looked suspicious because the teen was wearing all black. The teen didn’t resist or run, he just didn’t listen.
That alone does not give a trooper the OK to use a Taser, according to Florida Highway Patrol policy.
“Moms and dads, if you got your son or your daughter, do this with them, tell them that, like I said earlier, this battle isn’t won at that level where the officer or the trooper stops you or any, any officer stops you,” Thomas said. “Comply.”
Rodeman said she has previously had that conversation with her son before.
“I told him, I’m like, ‘You’re not a white kid,'” Rodeman said. “‘You have a white mom, you’re not a white kid.'”
Rodeman was able to visit her son for the first time on Wednesday. She had her first real conversation with him at the Juvenile Detention Center where he is being held.
Jack told his mom that he finally had his spine x-rayed on Tuesday but he still hasn’t had his head checked out. Despite all of that, Rodeman says Jack is in good spirits, and she believes her son learned an important lesson.
But, she said, she will not let the trooper off the hook.
“It’s not up to him to teach my kid a lesson,” Rodeman said. “I’m his parent. He was just in the wrong.”