Broward County, FL — Law enforcement in Broward County cannot seem to keep themselves out of the news lately, and as the incident below illustrates—it's for all the wrong reasons. Prosecutors have just ruled that an officer who slugged a skinny 14-year-old child in the face so hard that it broke his nose—in two places—was justified.
Instead of being held accountable for quite literally smashing in the face of 14-year-old Andrew Ostrovsky, former lockup officer Darell Bryant was allowed to quietly resign and keep his pension.
In a "close-out" memo signed earlier this month, prosecutor Christopher Killoran with the Broward State Attorney's Office said that Bryant "was justified in his use of force and his actions that day," according to the Miami Herald.
The decision from prosecutors not to hold Bryant accountable now has Uri Ostrovsky, Andrew's father, speaking out. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Uri said that officers have “permission to abuse children,” and noted that his son is not a violent person.
The incident began last year after Andrew was arrested for joyriding in his dad's vehicle and sent to Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center.
According to Bryant, who was investigated by Fort Lauderdale police for the beating caught on film, he was forced to break the skinny 120-pound boy's nose because he failed to comply with an order to stand against the wall.
The encounter began while Andrew and another juvenile detainee were in some sort of altercation. Bryant told Andrew to stand against the wall, but he did not immediately comply.
Bryant claimed that Andrew became "combative" and punched him. However, the video does not appear to show this. According to a report on the incident, it was after Andrew became combative that Bryant "redirected" him to the ground.
"According to Bryant," the report said, "the single punch was delivered in order to gain compliance from [Andrew], and was 'reasonable and necessary due to the aggression of the youth'."
As the Herald notes, prosecutors concluded that Bryant was permitted to punch the teen under Florida law.
"Based upon Bryant being an authority figure at the facility whose mandate is to control the juvenile detainees, when certain situations arise, for instance when one detainee is attempting to attack another, an employee must utilize force to gain compliance," the report stated.
What's more, there is no record of prosecutors ever interviewing Andrew and, according to the close-out memo, they never talked to the boy's father either.
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Andrew apparently told investigators with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in June 2017 that he had previously complained to Bryant about the other teen who "kept talking junk to him." According to Andrew, that's when Bryant suggested Andrew "hit [the] youth when no one is looking."
To show the difference between the story prosecutors found in their half-cocked investigation and the one conducted by the DJJ, the DJJ actually found excessive force.
When the DJJ watched the same video, they, like our readers will likely find, that Bryant "slammed youth into the wall" and then was seen "violently throwing the youth to the floor...Bryant was then observed hitting youth with a closed fist while he was on the ground."
Broward County's chief public defender, Gordon Weekes was also outspoken about the cover up involved in the official investigation, calling it "an incredible example of revisionist history" and "very, very loose with the facts."
"The message this sends to children at the facility — and the message it sends to staffers and guards at the facility — is that we will protect officers who cross the line, hurt children and beat children up, even when these acts are captured on video," Weekes said.
"He has him subdued. He has him controlled. But he still takes the next step and punches him in the nose. He let everyone know that you don't mess with us, or this is what we are going to do to you. This is how we will take care of you if you don't fall in line," Weekes said, adding, "This guard beat him into submission, and the state attorney agreed with that."
Adding an ominous undertone to this story—outside of the severe injustice—is the fact that Andrew is not alone in his claims that the officers encourage the children to fight.
The Herald has been tracking these claims and compiles them in a list they refer to as the Fight Club Files.
According to the Herald,
Andrew was one of several detained or incarcerated youths who told investigators, their parents or the Herald that officers incited teens to fight each other. Often, the youths said, teens would be offered honey buns, hamburgers or other treats as a reward for attacking another youth, records showed. The beatings that followed often were called "honey-bunnings."
Andrew's claims, however, never were evaluated in DJJ's 10-page inspector general report on the incident, and Andrew never is quoted by prosecutors in the April close-out memo.
"It's wrong," Ostrovsky said. "They are trying to cover it up. I am mad. I am really mad."
"They gave permission to abuse children," he added.