By Kevin Deutsch
A Broward Sheriff’s Office sergeant who pepper-sprayed a teenage boy in Tamarac was justified in his use of force under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, an appeals court ruled this month, upholding the ruling of a Broward County judge.
The decision by the Fourth District Court of Appeal is a victory for Sgt. Gregory LaCerra, who was shown on video pepper-spraying then 15-year-old Delucca Rolle in the April 2019 incident before his colleague, former Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Christopher Krickovich, beat the teen, leading to both deputies’ arrests.
They were charged with battery and falsifying records in the case, but the appeals court ruling means LaCerra cannot be prosecuted on the battery charge.
Krickovich, however, lost his bid for “Stand Your Ground” immunity before the same appeals court earlier this month. He still faces the battery charge.
Both LaCerra and Krickovich, who was fired by BSO due to his actions, have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The men, along with witnesses, have described a chaotic atmosphere in the area on the day of the incident and in the months before, including fights among large groups of J.P. Taravella High School students.
Both men have said that repeated fights in Tamarac Town Center—fights in which Rolle was not implicated—made them feel threatened.
Broward Circuit Court Judge Jill Levy, in her 2020 decisions dismissing the battery charge against LaCerra, said the sergeant was justified in thinking Rolle was set to attack him because the teen was “bowing and blading his body in what would be described as a pre-attack posture and telling LaCerra ‘Don’t f—ing touch me’ with his hand in a fist,” Levy wrote.
“The Court finds a reasonable person situated in LaCerra’s position, knowing what he knew under the same circumstances would have acted in the same manner,” Levy’s order states. “LaCerra was justified in arresting Delucca Rolle for Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer, pepper-spraying him and pushing him to the ground to make the arrest.”
Levy ruled Krickovich did not qualify for the same immunity since Rolle no longer posed a threat when Krickovich beat him.
The battery charge against LaCerra was dropped as a result of Levy’s ruling. However, he still faces a charge of falsifying records on an official report chronicling the incident, as does Krickovich.
LaCerra, who has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, remains employed by BSO.
The Stand Your Ground defense, which courts formerly interpreted as applying only to private citizens, has since been successfully invoked by members of Florida law enforcement.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.
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