According to a shocking article written by J.D. Gallop, “Nearly a year after a 31-year-old disabled man sank beneath the waters of a retention pond as five teens mocked, laughed and videoed his final moments, prosecutors said they will not pursue charges in the case. The decision was made in recent days and followed talks with the family of Jamel Dunn, whose final pleas for help were captured July 9 on a 2 1/2-minute cellphone clip by one of the teens.” 1
The case drew worldwide attention and Florida state lawmakers called for new “Good Samaritan” legislation that would make it the law that people had to assist people in trouble or, at the very least call for help. The measure never made it to a vote in the Florida legislature.
State Attorney Phil Archer said, “I know that everyone was sickened by the callous disregard for human life exhibited by these young people. We can only hope that this was an isolated and rare circumstance that will never happen again.” He went on to say, “Unfortunately, Florida law does not address this behavior and we are ethically restrained from pursuing criminal charges without a reasonable belief of proving a crime beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.” 2
Jamel Dunn was 31 years old, walked with a limp and apparently walked into the pond on his own. At some point he began to struggle to stay afloat and began shouting for help. When the five teenagers heard his screams, according to reports they were “enjoying a little cannabis,” and saw humor in the man hollering for help. One of the teens got his cellphone out and began filming as others began laughing and joking about the man drowning in the pond.
Dunn’s fiancee was the one who notified authorities and filed a missing persons report. Friends even posted Jamel’s picture on social media, along with appeals for help to find him. It was almost ten days later when a family friend was alerted to the video that surfaced on social media showing the horrifying moments of what actually transpired. When Jamel’s badly decomposed body was discovered there were no visible signs of trauma.
There’s no excusing what those teenagers did or what society is doing to teenagers, children and every one of us on a daily basis whether we recognize it or not.
Yvonne Martinez, spokeswoman for the Cocoa Police Department said, “It’s regrettable that the laws of Florida as they are written, don’t allow us to file any charge in this case.” She also said, “It’s a difficult issue because some people have compared it to trying to legislate morality, but it comes down to this: we as a society have to do a better job teaching our kids right from wrong, and to help people in need.” 3
A child psychologist in Florida expressed her concerns about a trend she has noticed of people becoming “desensitized about what’s going on in the world because of everything they’re exposed to. It can almost be overwhelming,” Dr. Vicki Panaccione said. “Kids are being bombarded with all kinds of violence and aggression. That included everything from violent video games and movies, to news media reports of mass shootings. In general, we’re just getting too used to all of the horrible things happening in the world. It just becomes a ho-hum experience.” 4
According to the report, not all of the teens expressed remorse. Jamel’s mother said, “I just never got any closure. They laughed at him. At the end of the day, you can’t live that down.” 5
There’s no excusing what those teenagers did or what society is doing to teenagers, children and every one of us on a daily basis whether we recognize it or not. The callousness that characterizes so many in our current society when it comes to human life, fundamental morality, common sense values, simple standards of right and wrong and basic respect for authority is unconscionable and indefensible.
If ever there was a perfect opportunity for the church to step up and step in to help the world, it’s now. However, many while professing genuine Christian compassion for others, can more often than not cater to their own concerns first and simply have no time or resources left when it comes to the church or those the church is trying to help. Others don’t see the urgency or feel the responsibility personally.
None of us can do everything. But every one of us should do something. If we laugh it off, find it funny or couldn’t care less while so many in the world around us are drowning in sin …
… God help us.
© 2018. Barry L. Cameron
1 Gallop, J.D. “No Charges for 5 Teens Who Mocked and Filmed Drowning Man, Jamel Dunn, in a Cocoa Pond.” Florida Today, Florida Today, 22 June 2018, www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2018/06/22/no-charges-year-after-teens-mocked-drowning-man-prosecutors-rule-out-filing-charges/723259002/
4 Berman, Dave. “Drowning Case Teaches Lesson about Social Media's Impact on Society.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 July 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/07/22/drowning-case-teaches-lesson-social-medias-impact-society/502248001/
5 Berman, Dave. “Drowning Case Teaches Lesson about Social Media's Impact on Society.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 July 2017, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/07/22/drowning-case-teaches-lesson-social-medias-impact-society/502248001/
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.