Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd today released a portion of a video of what he described as the "animalistic" beating of a 16-year-old girl by other teenagers.
Victoria Lindsay received a concussion, damage to her left eye and ear, and numerous bruises during the March 30 beating in Lakeland, which lasted about 30 minutes, the sheriff's office has said.
Judd said Lindsay still hasn't recovered full vision in her left eye or full hearing in her left ear.
According to one of the eight teenagers the sheriffs office charged in connection with the beating, Lindsay had been speaking ill of the other girls on her MySpace page. One of the teenagers told investigators they intended to record the beating on video and post it on MySpace and YouTube as retaliation, Judd said.
Judd said he would not release the tape in its entirety because that would fulfill the teens' aim. However, he thought it important to release a segment because "There's also the concern that we need to educate the parents about what their kids are doing."
Judd also said he thought YouTube, MySpace and other social networking sites have moral, ethical and perhaps legal obligations not to post videos of such fights. "It makes it cool and it creates copycats," Judd said.
The video shows Lindsay being beaten at 6124 Calendar Court W. and her attempts to escape being blocked, a sheriff's office report states.
According to the report, Lindsay told investigators the girls taunted her during the beating, saying they were going to post video of the attack on YouTube and MySpace.
But the mother of one of the girls said Lindsay had provoked the other teens by threatening and insulting them on the MySpace social-networking Web site.
"She embarrassed these girls," Christina Garcia told News Channel 8 in an interview. "She said she was going to kick their you-know-what's, and how slutty they are, and calling them much worse names than sluts."
Investigators last week charged eight teens in the assault: six girls - including Garcia's daughter, Mercades Nichols, 17, - whom they say beat Lindsay and two boys whom they say acted as lookouts. All are charged with felony battery and felony false imprisonment.
Three of the girls, including Nichols, 17, are also charged with felony kidnapping. The other two are Brittini Hardcastle, 17 and Britney Mayes, 17.
One of the boys, Stephen Schumaker, 18, of 6020 Calendar Court W., is free on $5,000 bail after being booked into the Polk County Jail, records show. The other teens were booked into the county's juvenile assessment center.
Lindsay had been staying at the home of Nichols' grandmother during spring break. About 8 p.m. on March 30, while the grandmother was at work, Hardcastle and Nichols called and sent text messages to Lindsay saying they wanted to talk to her at the house, Judd said. "What she didn't know was there were four other girls hiding in there."
At the house, Hardcastle and Nichols yelled at Lindsay, who went into a bedroom, Judd said. There, 14-year-old April Cooper struck Lindsay several times in the face and slammed her head into the bedroom wall, knocking her unconscious while the others took video the beating, Judd said.
When Lindsay awoke, she was on the couch in the living room, surrounded by Cooper, Nichols, Hardcastle, Mays, as well as Cara Murphy, 16, and Kayla Hassell, 15, Judd said.
The video clip Judd showed began with Lindsay on the couch and Hardcastle yelling and striking her. Lindsay got up and said, "You want me to leave; I'll go home." But the girls said she wasn't going anywhere. Hardcastle continued to hit Lindsay, while saying things such as, "Fight back! You have to fight back!" and, "What, you gonna cry like a little girl?"
Judd said there was no evidence on the video that Lindsay tried to fight back.
At one point, Lindsay backed into a corner by the front door near a glass bookcase holding knickknacks. "Don't hit the shelves! Don't hit the shelves!" Nichols yelled.
The other girls yelled for Lindsay to fight back, saying, "It's perfectly fair! It's one on one!"
Before the clip ended, Murphy, who was operating the video camera, said, "There's only 17 seconds left. Make it good."
Judd said investigators analyzed the video frame-by-frame and found other portions where the girls took turns striking Lindsay while others held camera phones or the video camera.
The grandmother was mortified by what had occurred and is cooperating with law enforcement.
Schumaker's father, Robert, denied his son's involvement in the incident, saying neighbors had told the Schumakers that Stephen and the other boy were not at the house acting as lookouts.
Garcia also denied that the other boy, Zachary Ashley, 17, was involved in the incident, saying surveillance video from his job can prove he was at work.
Asked about the boys' claims they were not there, Judd said one of the boys stuck his head in from outside and told the girls to quiet down because neighbors could hear the fight.
Garcia said she was ashamed her daughter hadn't called the police, but she also thought the Internet was to blame. She said children shouldn't get online and say bad things about each other.
"That's a recipe for disaster," she said.
Judd said after the teenagers were arrested, they were laughing together in a holding cell, saying, "Am I going to miss cheerleading practice?" and "I guess we're not going to the beach this week."
"That absolutely makes my blood boil," Judd said. "It's incumbent upon us as a society not to accept this."