The children–two 13 year olds and a 12 year old–were fishing and swimming in the Intracoastal at Canopy Walk Sunday evening when 58-year-old Gerald McCarthy walked up to them, told them they were trespassing, and that they had to leave.
The boys disputed the accusation, saying a friend had given them the code to enter.
By 11 p.m. that night, McCarthy was being booked at the Flagler County jail on two counts of aggravated child abuse–second degree felonies–two third-degree felony counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of battery. By this morning, he’d posted bail on $12,500 bond and was released.
According to his arrest report, McCarthy tried to place one of the children in a headlock as they were gathering their belongings. The boy swung his fists to pull away from McCarthy. McCarthy then allegedly grabbed the boy by his throat, lifted him off the ground, “bent him over the top of a wooden railing,” and bent his back over the railing. The boy’s head was over the water as he pleaded to be freed of the chokehold and said he wanted to go home.
“No you don’t, you have to stay here,” McCarthy replied, according to the boys’ account. One of the other boys tried to help his friend. The report describes McCarthy also attacking and restraining him.
The 12 year old was not involved, but recorded the altercation on his phone. He told deputies he and his friends were fishing when McCarthy “ran towards them with a can in his hand, yelling at them to leave.”
“This is ridiculous, I’m on the security committee and these kids were trespassing,” McCarthy told a deputy as he was being handcuffed. “I escorted them to the exist, that was it.” McCarthy had already invoked his right to remain silent.