FORT LAUDERDALE —The Broward State Attorney’s Office has acknowledged that an account contained in a Broward Sheriff’s Office homicide report about a firefighter placing a cervical collar on hog-tying victim Oral Brown is not accurate.
The report was prepared by BSO homicide detective Glenn Bukata in the death of Brown, a Lauderdale Lakes businessman, who was involved in a single-vehicle rollover accident at the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 15, 2001.
Brown was hog-tied by emergency crews who responded to the accident scene. After he was freed from the wreckage, he was disoriented and began to walk around. First responders physically subdued and restrained him by hog-tying and strapping him face-down to a stretcher.
Brown was pronounced dead at a hospital emergency room and an autopsy concluded his death was caused by the hog-tying, but it was accidental.
A homicide investigation and a grand jury hearing reached the same conclusion.
A section of Bukata’s report prepared on May 8, 2002, said he interviewed paramedic Ken Loukinen, who told him that he “placed a cervical collar around the victim’s neck, at which time the victim became combative.”
However, a South Florida Times examination of the official transcript 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.
After the South Florida Times published a story about the inconsistency, officials at the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the Broward Sheriff’s Office said the transcript was in error. BSO requested a retraction of the story.
However, both agencies admitted they had not listened to the audio recording of the interview between Bukata and Loukinen.
On the recording, Loukinen is heard saying he had difficulty controlling the “c-spine,” meaning cervical spine, but does not mention putting a cervical collar on Brown’s neck.
Bukata has declined repeated interview requests.
The issue of a cervical collar is important because the autopsy revealed Brown had hemorrhaging in his neck muscles and several eye witnesses, who were never called to testify before the grand jury, say he was beaten and placed in a chokehold.
The autopsy also found that he had petechial hemorrhaging, which is a sign of possible strangulation.
Anthony Loe, the prosecutor who presented the case to the grand jury, recently listened to the recording. “I did not hear the words ‘cervical collar’ mentioned,” Loe, an assistant state attorney, told the South Florida Times.
“I don’t hold myself out as an expert in medical terminology. However, as a prosecutor over the years I have had exposure that the use of the words ‘control c-spine,’ ‘traction on the neck,’ ‘c-spine collar,’ ‘cervical collar,’ ‘neck brace,’ ‘c-spine protection’ and ‘cs precautions’ can all interchangeably refer to various methods and devices used to attempt to immobilize a subject’s head and neck,” he said.
Loe said the discrepancy between Bukata’s report and the audio recording did not constitute a falsified report because Bukata might have had other conversations with Loukinen.
However, during a deposition taken in a pending lawsuit filed by Brown’s family over his death, Loukinen testified that he did not place a cervical collar on Brown and did not see anyone else do so.
Loe also pointed to the statement BSO Deputy Todd Chase gave to Sgt. Robert O’Neil, as an indication a cervical collar might have been used.
O’Neil: “All right. When fire rescue responded, what did they do, as far as stabilizing him?”
Chase: “They were trying to hold I guess his neck in a position where his airway stayed open, and the gentleman was thrashing around and moving his arm around but he wasn’t communicating, and he I don’t know if he, that basically he was inconscious or excuse me, unconscious or just that it was the state that he was in, but he wasn’t able to communicate with us.”
O’Neil: “Did you recall the paramedics at some point put a neck brace on him while he was inside the vehicle?”
Chase: “No, I really don’t recall that.”
O’Neil: “Were you in a position, ahm, near the vehicle where you would have seen that?”
Chase: “Yes, I was, the paramedics did have a neck brace with them but I don’t really recall him being able to put it on him.”
O’Neil: “Do you recall at any point in time when the neck brace on him while he was inside the vehicle?”
Chase: “No I don’t.”
The homicide report also said Bukata, “Arrived at the Fire Station #14 and collected one ‘Stifneck’ cervical collar from Firefighter/Paramedic Lt. London, via property receipt. This collar was then turned over to Dr. Linda Rush, via investigator Dave Coleman at approximately 1006 hours. Dr. Rush later informed me that the bruising on the victim’s neck was consistent with the place of the cervical collar.”
The autopsy report does not mention a cervical collar or that it may have caused the bruises.
Rush is actually the wife of Bukata’s then supervisor Sgt. Robert O’Neil, who also participated in the homicide investigation, whose married name is O’Neil, but at times uses Rush-O’Neil. She performed the autopsy and concluded Brown’s death was accidental.
During a deposition Rush-O’Neil testified that the injuries to Brown’s neck were caused by the way he was cinched to the stretcher and said enough force was applied to his neck to cause death.
Additionally, the emergency room trauma nurse Julie Teplicki told detectives Brown arrived there not wearing a cervical collar on. Trauma physician Dr. Jean M. Ferber also wrote in her report that he was not wearing a cervical collar.
*Pictured above is Broward Sheriff's Office Detective Glenn Bukata.
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