FORT LAUDERDALE –A Broward Sheriff’s Office homicide report compiled in the 2001 death of a hog-tying victim contains an account of an incident given by a firefighter that apparently never took place, according to transcripts of the firefighter’s official statement taken by detectives, and his deposition.
The report was prepared by BSO homicide detective Glenn Bukata in the death of Oral Brown, following a single-vehicle accident at the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale.
“At approximately 1852 hours, I interviewed Paramedic Ken Loukinen, who stated that he crawled into the overturned truck and saw the victim suspended from the seatbelt, in an unresponsive state,” says a section of Bukata’s report prepared on May 8, 2002. “Loukinen stated that he placed a cervical collar around the victim’s neck, at which time the victim became combative.”
But official transcripts and depositions taken in a lawsuit filed over the death of the 37-year-old Lauderdale Lakes businessman contradicts the report.
A South Florida Times examination of the official transcripts of Loukinen’s statement shows Bukata did not ask any questions about a cervical collar and Loukinen made no mention of using or placing one around Brown’s neck, as claimed in the report.
Bukata declined repeated interview requests made through Jim Leljedal, director of BSO’s Media Relations Office. Leljedal also said Loukinen recently retired and he did not respond to requests sent through his Facebook page seeking comment.
Loukinen’s videotaped deposition in the civil case filed over the death also contradicts statements Bukata attributed to him in the report.
When asked about the use of a cervical collar during the deposition, Loukinen replied, “I believe he may have had it on afterwards, after we had him restrained.
“I don’t recall. I wasn’t in the rescue truck.” Asked if ever saw a collar on Brown, Loukinen said, “No, I didn’t.”
Even though Brown, 37, died on Oct. 15, 2001, a lawsuit filed by his family remains pending in the courts.
An autopsy determined Brown died due the manner in which he was tied up. A Grand Jury concluded his death was accidental but some eyewitnesses maintain he was beaten, placed in a chokehold and hog-tied before being strapped face-down on a stretcher, where he suffocated.
According to paramedics’ notes, Brown received no attention while being transported to a hospital emergency room. The seat located near Brown’s head where a paramedic was supposed to be positioned to provide care was occupied by Lisa Long, a county dispatcher who was a ride-along observer with paramedics.
Also, the first sentence of the emergency room physician’s report noted that Brown was not wearing a cervical collar.
“This is a 37-year-old male who was reported to be combative at the scene, was brought in by EMS without a neck collar, lying supine with handcuffs and multiple twist ties to restrain him,” Dr. Jean M. Ferber wrote.
BSO has not said if Loukinen may have given any additional statements to Bukata, but none are included in the case file. Michael Winer, the attorney representing Brown’s widow and son in the lawsuit, said no other statements have been turned over to him.
According to the Internal Affairs report, Bukata obtained a cervical collar “like the one affixed to Mr. Brown at the accident from Fire Station #14. He turned it over to Dr. Rush, of the Medical Examiner’s Office, who examined the device and opined that the bruising on Brown’s neck was consistent with having the collar placed on him.”
Dr. Linda O’Neil, who conducted the autopsy, determined Brown’s death to be accidental. Though not specified in the reports, she is the wife of Bukata’s then supervisor, Sgt. Robert O’Neil, who also participated in the homicide investigation.
Portions of the autopsy file are signed with the name of doctor “Linda Rush,” while others are signed with the name of “Linda Rush-O’Neil.” Still other documents list the pathologist as doctor “Linda O’Neil.” She did not return calls seeking comment.
Nevertheless, none of those documents from the autopsy file obtained by South Florida Times mention any such opinion about injuries to Brown’s neck being caused by a cervical collar.
“I’m stunned, simply stunned,” said Winer. “There appears to be no wiggle room between [Loukinen’s] testimony and the accounts in the BSO report. There clearly is a discrepancy and it seems to warrant further investigation.”
Winer said he plans to take new depositions from the O’Neils, Bukata, Loukinen and emergency room personnel.
“I’ve already notified the attorneys,” Winer said. “I will be taking their depositions.”
The discrepancy over Loukinen’s statement is the latest irregularity uncovered in an ongoing South Florida Times investigation into Brown’s death.
The South Florida Times stories have led a civil rights organization and a state legislator, to call on Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to reopen the case. Scott has yet to reach a decision.
*Pictured above is Broward Sheriff's Office Detective Glen Bukata.
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