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18-year-old who pushed friend off bridge charged with reckless endangerment

The moment Taylor Smith pushed Jordan Holgerson into the East Fork Lewis River.

CLARK COUNTY, Wash. – The girl who pushed her friend off a 50-foot-tall bridge near Moulton Falls is charged with one count of reckless endangerment.

Police identified the woman on Tuesday caught on camera pushing 16-year-old Jordan Holgerson off the bridge as 18-year-old Tay'lor Smith. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office said it was forwarding the case to the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office for “appropriate charging.”

Smith was officially charged with reckless endangerment on Friday.

"The struggle is always just trying to find the charge that's going to do justice," said Laurel Smith, deputy prosecuting attorney for Clark County. "It's really just trying to strike a balance between what's the right thing for the victim and what's the right thing for the defendant."

In a declaration of probable cause, investigators say Smith and several friends drove to Moulton Falls Country Park on Aug. 8. While at the park, Holgerson watched one of her friends jump from the bridge that spans across the East Fork of the Lewis River and decided she wanted to try jumping.

Holgerson, Smith and two friends climbed to the top of the bridge.

When she was on the bridge, Holgerson hesitated and had second thoughts about jumping, the court document said.

A cellphone video recording shows Smith reaching over the bridge railing and shoving Holgerson off the end and into the river while she was hesitating.

Bystanders helped Holgerson out of the water and she was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. She suffered six broken ribs, a punctured lung, air bubbles in her chest and significant trauma to large portions of her skin, the court document says.

She was released from the hospital Friday.

Holgerson told investigators that Smith was the person who pushed her off the bridge and that she did not want to be pushed.

Smith also admitted she pushed Holgerson off the bridge, but said she did so to help her overcome her fear. She did not mean to injure her.

Smith returned to Portland International Airport Friday night following an interview on ABC's Good Morning America.

"I made my public apology this morning on ABC News," Smith told a KATU reporter at PDX. "I accept the charges."

Based on the information learned in the investigation, officials felt Smith’s conduct could have killed Holgerson and resulted in serious injuries. Therefore, she’s charged with one count of reckless endangerment.

Media Psychology Research Center Director Dr. Pamela Rutledge says teenagers don't necessarily think about risks and consequences before acting.

"Until you're in your mid-twenties, the cerebral cortex is not fully grown and that means that children, teenagers up until that age, really are not able to do proper risk assessment," Rutledge told KATU by phone. "They are impaired in that sense; they are not thinking ahead."

Rutledge says people often act differently when they know they are being observed or filmed. A huge power disparity also exists between teenagers. She added that teens are often in the throes of identity development and seeking social affiliation and validation to enhance their social standing.

"The 16-year-old is at a serious disadvantage in terms of wanting to look like a grown-up to the 18-year-old, trying to be brave," Rutledge said. "While the other [18-year old] may be more cavalier, trying to look powerful or important."

Smith's mom told KATU that her daughter is "done" with interviews and is ready to move on.

"She just said her public apology on ABC and that's what she wanted to do," she said.

Clark County Parks is evaluating whether to put any barrier or fence over the bridge to prevent people from jumping off, but it won't know the feasibility of that for at least another month.

Park officials are concerned that any barrier may not be effective, and people will find a way around which they worry could make things more dangerous at Moulton Falls.

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