Kaia Rolle’s wrists were much too small for handcuffs, so when an officer held a white zip tie in his hands, the 6-year-old girl was curious at the sight.
“What are those for?” Kaia asked the pair of Orlando officers.
“They’re for you,” officer Dennis Turner said, as another officer slipped them over the first-grader’s wrists. “No, don’t put handcuffs on!” Kaia sobbed, pleading with a charter school official feet away. “Help me, help me, please!”
The two school resource officers perp-walked Kaia to a patrol vehicle waiting outside Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy, with Kaia crying the entire way, as shown in body-camera footage of the September incident obtained this week by the Orlando Sentinel.
The incident, which prompted wide national condemnation after it occurred, led to Turner’s firing after the department concluded he violated arrest policy, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said last year.
“I was sick to my stomach when I heard this,” he said then. “We were all appalled. We could not fathom the idea of a 6-year-old being put in the back of a police car.”
The extent of trauma from the incident is unknown, but the Sentinel’s release of the video provides a clearer and damning glimpse inside the school where Turner – an officer accused of abusing his own son and of excessive force on the job – led the arrest.
“I knew that what they did was wrong, but I never knew she was begging for help,” Meralyn Kirkland, Kaia’s grandmother, told the Sentinel. “I watched her break.”
Two burly officers were called in after school officials said Kaia had a tantrum and struck three school workers, prompting a charge of misdemeanor battery, the Sentinel reported.
But by the time the officers arrived, Kaia was sitting calmly in an office chair while a school official read a book to her. The child was unprepared to go, and she protested being put in a police car.
“You don’t want to? You have to,” the other officer said in the video.
“Please, give me a second chance,” she pleaded.
After Kaia was placed in the vehicle, Turner returned to an office where three school officials appeared distraught.
“The restraints, are they necessary?” one employee asked him.
“Yes,” Turner said. Two women looked away from him. “If she was bigger, she would have been wearing regular handcuffs.”
The employees appeared baffled a child that young would be restrained, although Turner provided some statistics. The youngest person he ever arrested previously was a 7-year-old boy, he told them, among 6,000 arrests in nearly three decades in law enforcement.
“Now, she has broken the record,” Turner said.
That remark especially agonized Kirkland. “You’re discussing traumatizing a 6- and 7-year-old – and that’s a boasting right for you?” she told the Sentinel. “These are babies.”
An arrest record said school employee Beverly Stoute wanted to press charges, which the school has denied, the Sentinel reported. The school did not respond to a request for comment. Turner could not be reached for comment.
Kaia was processed at a juvenile facility and had to use a step stool for her mug shot, Kirkland told the paper. State attorney Aramis Ayala said after the incident that her office never intended to move forward with charges against Kaia.
“I refuse to knowingly play any role in the school-to-prison pipeline at any age,” she said afterward.
Another 6-year-old, a boy, was arrested by Turner for battery in an unrelated incident the same day, although the arrest was halted before he was fully charged, the Sentinel reported.
Rolón addressed the consequences Tuesday as the body-cam footage circulated in news reports. A new department policy requires any arrest of a child under 12 to be approved by a deputy chief, he said. Before that, a manager was required to approve that kind of arrest. Turner violated that policy.
Rolón also mandated more oversight from charter school resource officers.
Turner accumulated a voluminous disciplinary file in his career before retiring in 2018. He then became a reserve officer for the department.
Early in his career, Turner was arrested and charged with abusing his 7-year-old son, the Orlando Sentinel reported at the time.
He was also issued a written reprimand for excessive force after he Tasered a man five times, jolting the suspect twice when he was already on the floor and no longer resisting, the Sentinel reported in 2016. The paper has also reported accusations that Turner threatened his wife over text message and racially profiled citizens.
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The Washington Post’s Allyson Chiu contributed to this report.