A school bus driver in Florida is under fire after a video of three teens beating up another on his bus –- while he watched –- went viral, sparking concerns that he should be charged for not stepping in.
The driver, 64-year-old John Moody, will not face criminal charges for not trying to stop the fight that took place on his bus on July 9 in Gulfport, Fla. While the fight was almost more than a month ago, the case is taking its place in the national spotlight after the amateur video footage was released by police.
In the video, three 15-year-old boys are seen beating up a 13-year-old boy on a school bus. As the fight escalates, the trio wedge the victim in a seat and begin punching, kicking and violently stomping the boy, which resulted in a broken arm and minor injuries. According to police, the fight erupted after the younger boy said the older kids tried to sell him drugs.
However, all eyes are on the 17-year veteran bus driver when Moody is seen watching the fight but not physically stepping in, as the younger boy cries out for help.
"I got a fight," Moody says during a call to emergency dispatch. "I need help in a hurry, I got a fight I need help in a hurry."
"Get somebody out here quick, quick, quick, they're about to beat this boy to death. Please get somebody here quick. And they're still doing it. There's nothing I can do," he continued.
After the school launched an internal investigation into the fight, the case was handed over to the state attorney’s office. Prosecutors said on Thursday that Moody will not be charged with child neglect for watching the fight and not helping, CBS reported.
Thanks to school policy, he did not have to get involved. According to Pinellas County School District, drivers are not required to intervene in fights but rather to call dispatch; the county lets drivers decide for themselves whether or not to get involved, but many counties in the area forbid drivers from stepping into fights, KPLR11 reported.
Moody, though, said he was too scared to intervene. “The three boys just jumped on him and started pounding on him and I did all can,” he said. “I was looking. It was like I was in shock. I was petrified.”
But critics believe Moody should have jumped in and helped.
“There was clearly an opportunity for him to intervene or check on the welfare of the children -- or the child, in this case -- and he didn’t make any effort to do so,” Chief Robert Vincent of the Gulfport Police Department told KPLR11.
Moody, who retired two weeks after the fight, told KPLR11 that he now regrets his decision not to jump in. “I wanted to help him so bad. I wanted to help him so bad, I wanted to help him,” he said.
"Me jumping in the middle of that fight with three boys, it would have been more dangerous for other students on the bus for as myself," Moody later said on “Piers Morgan Live.” "There's just no telling what might have happened."
Moody’s attorney Frank McDermott, though, believed he was in the right and called child neglect accusations “preposterous.”
"I don't think law enforcement should ever tell citizens to intervene in a violent attack. John did what he was trained to do," McDermott said, according to UPI.com.
Of his decision to retire, Moody called the fight “the final straw – and it was a big straw, too.... I took it really personal. I had many sleepless nights. I had nightmares," he told CNN.
The three boys were arrested on aggravated battery charges.