PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – Cellphone video obtained Thursday by News4JAX shows a 17-year-old girl being tasered by a Putnam County deputy in Crescent City. The Sheriff’s Office says the deputy’s actions were justified.
Investigators said it happened Monday following a fight between two groups of people. The teenager was taken to the intensive care unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital due to a head injury, and her mother said she was just moved into a general room.
Because the 17-year-old is a minor and hasn’t been charged with a crime, News4JAX is not identifying her by name.
The 17-year-old, in the video in a blue shirt, appears to be advancing toward a female in a red shirt, while another female holding a cellphone appears ready to take a swing. On the right of the screen, Captain D. Ussery tells the 17-year-old that he is prepared to deploy his Taser -- and then pulls the trigger.
(Full, uncut video below)
The 17-year-old comes to a halt and goes down backward. The back of her head hits the pavement and another deputy places her in handcuffs.
“You can clearly hear the deputy involved in this incident giving verbal commands to stop fighting. ‘I’m going to tase you. I’m going to tase you,’ Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach said. “My question is: Where did the video go that was recorded by the observer prior to that time?”
According to the incident report, despite being medically cleared for transport to the jail, the teen spoke about her head hurting, so a deputy drove her to the nearest fire station.
“They re-evaluated her and, out of an abundance of caution, they decided to transport her to the hospital,” DeLoach said.
Once at the hospital, doctors learned she was suffering from a brain bleed, and she was transported to Wolfson, where doctors found the back of her skull was fractured and that she’d developed a blood clot. She was in the ICU for three days.
“She’ll have to take seizure medicine for awhile,” her mother said. “She’s having trouble eating. She can’t keep anything down. She needs assistance with walking.”
Her mother saw the video and said she wishes the deputy took another course of action.
“I wasn’t there, but if you look at the video, her back was turned,” the mother said. “He’s a grown man. He could have grabbed her. I don’t think he had to tase her.”
Deloach says Ussery made the right call, and that deputies learned after taking the teen into custody, she had a weapon hidden inside her bra.
“She went looking for a fight. She was armed with a knife. And my deputy’s actions in this particular incident were completely justified based on the circumstance,” DeLoach said.
Investigators say it started as a lovers’ quarrel between a 21-year-old woman and her boyfriend who broke up, and a 19-year-old woman at the center of the breakup who had been previously attacked. According to the incident report, the 19-year-old woman called the Sheriff’s Office after learning the other woman was coming to her house fight her.
“And we felt like we had an obligation to intervene there,” DeLoach said.
According to the report, deputies showed up but stayed in their patrol cars until they saw a light blue car pull up, and then saw the teenager and a 21-year-old woman get out. The report states that one of them rushed over and struck the 19-year old, and that’s when deputies intervened.
“We may well be investigating a homicide right now had the deputies not been there and intervened when they did,” DeLoach said.
Given what the teen is going through medically, Ussery chose not to charge her with concealing a deadly weapon. The teen may be out of the ICU, but her mom says she has a long recovery ahead of her.
“I have so many emotions going that I was just hoping she was OK because I saw the way she hit that pavement and it was really hard,” the mother said. “I didn’t know the severity until someone sent me the video.”
Putnam County deputies recently began using body cameras, but only a handful are being used as part of a trial -- and this incident was not captured on a body-worn camera.
“This is one of those unfortunate cases where I’m sorry someone was injured, but it certainly highlights one of the reasons that I want to have body cameras in place,” DeLoach said.