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.”
Kris Rodeman of San Carlos Park stands in front of childhood photos of her son and a photo on her cell phone of him now. Her son was tased by an FHP officer not far from his home June 16 and remains in the Southwest Florida Juvenile Justice Center. His mom plans on proceeding with a lawsuit against the FHP trooper who tased her son. (Photo: Michael Braun/news-press.com)
At issue is the tasing of her son in the San Carlos Park neighborhood where his girlfriend lives a week ago. 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 when asked for comment. “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 media outlets calling the mother and showing up at the home where the tasing took place in the Timberlake residential community off Three Oaks Boulevard.
Smyrnios (Photo: Special to The News-Press)
The incident started shortly before 1 p.m. June 16. According to a report by Trooper George Smyrnios, who resides 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). This left turn is the entrance to a private residential neighborhood called, “Timber Lake,” the report reads.
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 just committed a crime or was about to.
At issue is the tasing of a San Carlos Park teen in the backyard where his girlfriend lives a week ago by a Florida Highway Patrol Officer.
Fort Myers News-Press
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 him to come to him. The teen again said “no.”
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 his Taser, pointed it at the teen and told him he would tase 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 tased him. After the teen fell to the bricked patio the trooper ordered him to put his hands behind his back again and then tased him when he didn’t comply.
Rodeman, the boy’s mother, said Smyrnios called her, told her what happened and 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 tasing 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.”
At issue is the tasing of a San Carlos Park teen in the backyard where his girlfriend lives a week ago by a Florida Highway Patrol Officer. (Photo: PFTM)
Rodeman said she became more concerned and angry with the trooper.
Since she saw her son in the back of the patrol until June 16 she had not seen him and was told visitation was cancelled this week at the Southwest Florida Juvenile Justice Center.
Dennis Driscoll, superintendent at the center, confirmed that standard visitation was cancelled this week but would resume Sunday.
“We are doing individual special visits right now for some of the longer-term kids,” Driscoll said.
Rodeman spoke with Driscoll Wednesday. “He said he would see what he can do,” she said.
That turned into the visit Wednesday afternoon. Rodeman said she did not see any overt signs of injury.
“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 he was uncomfortable and his back hurt.
Attorney Derick Tyler, representing the Rodemans, said he has 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 and 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, was named Investigator of the Year in 2020 and 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.
The San Carlos mom admits her son is not a perfect kid and isn’t painting him with a halo.
She said the day before, deputies from Lee County Sheriff’s Office pulled her son over and questioned him about some local crimes and then let him go.
She said her son is on disability — “he gets a check every month — has ADHD and other issues such as anxiety.
“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 he is on juvenile probation for a joyriding incident involving a golf cart at a local course.
“Hopefully, he’ll learn from this,” she said.
The family of his girlfriend isn’t speaking and wants no part of the issue, she said, and are upset that media have been in and around their house.
“They just wanted to see where it happened,” Rodeman said, shrugging her shoulders about her inability to prevent that unwanted attention.
The problems are just one more issue for Kris Rodeman. She quit her several-years-long job as an assistant manager at a local 7-Eleven when her knee became injured and she couldn’t stand for long periods.
“I had to borrow money to pay for his lawyer,” she said. “What are you going to do?”
Rodeman, who is a single mother, was also angered with the marijuana charge, but with her son, not the law.
She has a prescription for medical marijuana for pain relief and said her son had the substance with him.
“I didn’t know he had it,” she said. “I was mad.”
The teen will next appear for a docket sounding July 30 before Lee County Judge Tara Paluck.
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Follow Michael Braun on Twitter: @MichaelBraunNP
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