Florida Deputy Charged With Child Abuse After Throwing 15-Year-Old to Ground

A sheriff’s deputy assigned to a public school in Florida was charged Tuesday with child abuse after school surveillance footage showed him grabbing a 15-year-old student by the neck and slamming her to the ground, the authorities said.

The video of the Sept. 25 encounter at Cross Creek School in Pompano Beach, Fla., starts with the student, whose name was not released, and the deputy, Willard Miller of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, standing in a room together. Two other people are sitting on chairs. The teenager walks up behind the deputy and pokes him in the back of the knee with her footwhile he is looking at his phone.

For about a minute, Deputy Miller, 38, can be seen talking to the girl before he lunges toward her, grabs her neck, throws her to the ground on her back, flips her over onto her stomach and pins her down while holding her wrists together.

The video has no audio and it is not clear what words were exchanged, why any of the people were in the room or what type of room it was.

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At a news conference on Tuesday, Sheriff Gregory Tony of Broward County said that it did not matter what was said in the room or whether Deputy Miller was antagonized.

“I would hope that every cop in America would disagree with that type of response,” he said.

Deputy Miller, a school resource deputy at the school, is charged with one count of child abuse without causing great bodily harm, a third-degree felony. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. He was suspended from the sheriff’s office without pay on Oct. 28.

Deputy Miller appeared in court Tuesday and was released on $5,000 bond, according to Veda Coleman-Wright, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. Efforts to reach him by phone on Tuesday evening were not immediately successful.

Deputy Miller was hired by the sheriff’s office in August 2016, Ms. Coleman-Wright said. He was assigned to the school in February 2018. Sheriff Tony said at the news conference that Deputy Miller had no prior disciplinary record.

Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, a union, said that the group is representing Deputy Miller. But Mr. Bell declined to comment on the case before more is known about what words were exchanged.

A lawyer representing Deputy Miller, Jeremy J. Kroll, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening.

Sheriff Tony said that the Broward County Public Schools system was also investigating the encounter. The school district did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday evening.

Sheriff Tony said that the student was being “treated or examined” before the encounter, but he declined to release further information, citing a continuing investigation. He said he did not know what the deputy was doing in the room.

ImageDeputy Willard Miller
Credit…Broward County Sheriff’s Office

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has come under heightened scrutiny since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018 that left 17 dead.

In December, a state commission investigating the shooting found that eight deputies had ignored protocol for active shooters that calls for pursuing a gunman to try to disarm him.

The Florida Senate voted last month to remove Sheriff Tony’s predecessor, backing Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to oust the previous sheriff over the botched response to the massacre.

Sheriff Tony said that Tuesday’s charges reflected a changing culture at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office that increasingly prioritized disciplinary action for misbehaving deputies.

“If they fail in the field to perform their jobs,” he said, “it’s my responsibility to hold them accountable.”

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