Florida deputy charged with child abuse after slamming teen to the ground by her throat

The girl, who was at a school that specialized in children with emotional needs, did nothing to provoke that level of force, the sheriff said Tuesday.

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By Doha Madani

A school resource officer was arrested Tuesday on a child abuse charge related to a September incident in which he slammed a teenage girl to the ground by her throat in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Deputy Willard Miller, 38, was charged with felony child abuse without great bodily harm and is the subject of an internal affairs investigation, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said Tuesday.

"The way the deputy responds, for whatever occurred, whatever type of verbal dialogue was going on, it makes no sense and it wasn't necessary," Tony said.

Video released by the sheriff's department showed the jarring moment when Miller attacked the unidentified 15-year-old girl at the Cross Creek School on Sept. 25. Miller can be seen in the video in a room with the young girl and at least two other individuals.

The girl walks around the room with her hands in her pockets for a few minutes while Miller is on his phone. At one point, the girl appears to tap the deputy's leg with her foot and Miller looks up for a moment.

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Miller then crosses the room about a minute later, puts his hands on the teen's throat and slams her to the ground while the girl's hands are still in her pockets. He then turns her over so that she's on her stomach, seems to say something to her, then picks her up and throws her into what appears to be an alcove in the room.

There is no audio with the surveillance footage and the circumstances of why the officer was in the room with the girl are unclear. Miller had been assigned to the school in August 2016.

Broward County Public Schools said in a statement that it made the sheriff's office aware immediately upon learning about the incident.

"We appreciate the quick actions of the Sheriff’s Office regarding this matter and continue to work with them regarding the situation," Kathy Koch, the district's chief communications officer, said. "We are also investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident to ensure all proper District policies and procedures were followed."

The sheriff described Cross Creek School as a school that specializes in children with emotional needs, but did not elaborate on whether the 15-year-old girl had any special needs or disabilities.

Tony said that the teen did nothing to provoke that level of force and that the incident was "embarrassing."

"When we have one individual that acts outside the confines of the oath that they take, it goes on every news channel," Tony said. "It spreads across the country and it impacts not only the agency, but everybody that carries a badge on their chest in this county, in this state and across the country."

Miller was suspended without pay Oct. 28 and is the subject of an ongoing investigation. He was granted a $5,000 bond, but it is unclear whether he is still in custody.

Miller's family and attorney declined to comment to NBC affiliate WTVJ in court Tuesday.