SAN CARLOS, Florida – Kris Rodeman finally got to see her son Wednesday.
The mother of the 16-year-old was beside herself with worry, angry and concerned that her son, currently in the Southwest Florida Juvenile Justice Center, is in pain.
And, for six days, she had been prevented from seeing him.
“He looks good,” she said after the visit shortly after noon. “It’s kind of crazy. I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”
At issue is the shocking a week ago of her son with a Taser stun gun in the San Carlos Park neighborhood where his girlfriend lives. A Florida Highway Patrol officer fired the Taser twice after the trooper said the teen failed to follow his orders.
The teen is charged with failure to obey a police officer as well as marijuana possession and obstruction without violence.
The story gained national attention given the heightened interest in police tactics involving people of color.
“The Florida Highway Patrol is committed to public safety of citizens and property,” the agency said in a statement. “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.”
The teen’s mother is convinced it was a case of racial profiling because her son is a person of color. His father is Black.
“I have no doubt he was profiled,” she stressed, adding, “it was excessive force.”
The issue has blown up on social media, with national outlets calling the mother and showing up at the home where the incident occurred, in the Timberlake residential community off Three Oaks Boulevard.
The incident began just before 1 p.m. June 16. According to a report by Trooper George Smyrnios, who lives in the same Timberlake community, he was driving west on Winged Foot Drive.
“I slowed down and then turned left (south) onto Indian Laurel Way (Scarlet Oak Avenue),” the report reads. “This left turn is the entrance to a private residential neighborhood called, ‘Timber Lake.'”
The community is not access restricted, has no gates and is open to all traffic.
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In the report, Smyrnios said he saw the teen, describing him as a “suspicious person” dressed in black. Smyrnios said the teen “darted” into shrubbery after spotting the trooper in his marked Dodge ChargerFHP patrol unit.
Smyrnios said the teen’s “behavior, demeanor and body language” appeared to be that of a burglar or someone who had either just committed a crime or was about to.
Smyrnios said he could see the teen in a backyard and motioned with his hand for the youth to approach. When the teen said “no,” Smyrnios said he identified himself as a police officer and told the teen to come to him. The teen again said “no,” the report says.
The report said the teen then walked away and entered a yard on Chestnut Tree Loop, which is the home of his girlfriend. The trooper said he then pulled out his Taser, pointed it at the teen and told him he would shock him if he didn’t obey by turning around and putting his hands behind his back.
When the teen turned away from Smyrnios and walked away, the trooper shocked him with the Taser. After the teen fell to the bricked patio, the trooper ordered him to put his hands behind his back again and then shocked him again when he didn’t comply.
Rodeman, the boy’s mother, said Smyrnios called her and told her what happened. She said she drove the roughly 1.1 miles from her home to where her son was under arrest.
At that point, she said, she was angry with her son. However, she also said she was unaware of the circumstances surrounding the use of the Taser, and that he had struck his head on masonry on the patio.
“I didn’t know then, I know now. I’m glad he’s still alive,” she said. “His girlfriend lives right there. He didn’t dart into the bushes.”
Rodeman said she did not see any overt signs of injury during a visit with her son Wednesday afternoon at the Southwest Juvenile Justice Center.
“He looks good; I got to hug him and his spirit’s pretty good,” she said. However, she said, her son told her he was still having headaches and that he was uncomfortable and his back hurt.
Attorney Derick Tyler, representing the Rodemans, said he had seen the teen.
“He’s still in pain,” Tyler said. The impact the teen suffered, Tyler said, was hard enough that it broke masonry on a fire pit on the patio.
Rodeman, while still angry at her son, is more upset with the trooper.
“I’m going after him for excessive force,” she said of Smyrnios. She said she plans to explore her legal options. “I’ve read about things they have to follow or abide by also and from what I’m seeing he had no right to do that. They have rules they have to go by, too. I don’t want this to happen to another child.”
Smyrnios is a lauded officer who was named Investigator of the Year in 2020. He comes from a long line of troopers: His father is a retired FHP trooper, and his two brothers, part of the Smyrnios triplets, are also FHP officers.
Rodeman said her son is not perfect:
“He’s just a little bit different. He’s not a bad kid; he’s misunderstood and a bit of a follower.”
She also confirmed that her son is on juvenile probation for a joyriding incident.
“Hopefully, he’ll learn from this,” she said.
The teen’s next court appearance is July 30.
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Follow Michael Braun on Twitter: @MichaelBraunNP
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Mom of teen tased in video by Florida trooper plans to sue