Lawsuit targets Key West police, school district

Chief defends officers who arrested young boy

The mother of a child who punched a Key West teacher in 2018 is suing the school district, the city of Key West and the police officers who arrested the boy, who was 8 at the time. Assault charges filed against the boy were later dismissed.

The boy’s mother, Bianca Di Gennaro, 48, is the daughter of former Monroe County Commissioner Mario Di Gennaro. She hired attorney Ben Crump, who is representing George Floyd’s family, to represent her in the two-year-old incident.

Crump has circulated a partial video of the arrest on news outlets and social media, showing that the handcuffs were too big for the boy’s hands. 

Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg has supported his officers, who he said were following state statutes in arresting the child. Florida laws provides for an upgraded charge when the victim of an assault is a public or school official. 

Brandenburg and the Key West Police Department have been recognized for training all 97 officers in the department to recognize the signs and symptoms of autism and use that training in how they respond to various situations.

After punching a teacher in the cafeteria of Gerald Adams Elementary School, the boy, who, according to his mother, has ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, depression and anxiety, told the teacher, “My mom is gonna beat your ass.”

The boy’s father was called to the school and was present when his son was arrested. The boy’s mother was out of town and on her way back from Miami at the time, according to the police report.

The video, taken by a police officer’s body-worn camera, shows another officer telling the child in a calm tone that what he did was serious and that the boy had made a mistake when he punched a teacher in the lunchroom of Gerald Adams Elementary School.

The incident occurred in December 2018, but the lawsuit was filed this week, when the video gained traction online. Charges against the student were dismissed by prosecutors nine months after the incident occurred.

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