FORT LAUDERDALE — An incident in which motorist Oral Brown was involved in a single-car crash, and died after being “hog-tied” and strapped face down to a gurney by Broward Sheriff’s deputies and Broward County paramedics, was the butt of jokes by some emergency medical services personnel.
According to his deposition taken in a lawsuit filed over the incident , Kenneth Loukinen, one of the paramedics who responded to the scene, was asked if the incident was discussed in the fire-rescue division.
“Other than idle chat from other stations, you know, the normal rumor stuff, no,” Loukinen said, according to transcripts of his Dec. 14, 2004 testimony.
Asked what he heard in the workplace about the incident, Loukinen said, “It’s a fire station. We joke around a lot. So, a lot of jokes were made.”
When he was asked to provide specifics about the jokes, several attorneys representing the county, the sheriff’s office and other defendants in the case objected to the question and Loukinen did not elaborate.
The attorney representing Brown’s family in the lawsuit is expressing concern over the revelation.
“This would have never happened if he was white,” Michael Winer said this week. “I have never heard of such thing. It’s like 1940 Mississippi.”
Brown, a 37-year-old naturalized citizen from Jamaica, suffered a seizure while driving on Oct. 15, 2001, and lost control of his vehicle. It then crashed through a fence at the Swap Shop flea market on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and hit a tree. His SUV landed upside down, leaving him suspended by his seatbelt, and he had to be cut from the mangled wreckage.
Emergency crews who responded to the scene said once Brown was freed, he was disoriented, resisted treatment and began flailing his hands.
He was forcibly subdued and hog-tied , a position in which his hands were cuffed behind his back, his ankles were strapped together, and then his legs were bent behind him and tied to his wrists. He was then strapped, face down, on a stretcher and transported to the emergency room.
During the trip to the hospital he was not monitored and did not receive any medical treatment.
Inside the emergency vehicle, a paramedic was supposed to sit in a seat next to Brown’s head to monitor his breathing and other conditions. Instead, that position was occupied by Lisa Long, a fire rescue dispatcher, who went along as a “ride along observer” with the emergency crews.
Long said Brown “was struggling to get loose” while strapped to the
“We tried telling him calm down. Just relax and he was still combative and he finally just…sound like he was sobbing a little bit like he was finally giving in,” Long said.
“And he laid there for a little while, took a couple of relaxing breaths what I would call you know a couple of deep breaths and just laid there and relaxed and continued breathing,” she said.
Upon arrival at the emergency room, Brown was unresponsive and medical staff immediately ordered him to be untied and freed. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead. Based on his bruises and being hog-tied, emergency room staff called police.
An autopsy determined the cause of death was positional asphyxia, caused by being unable to breathe due to how he had been tied up and strapped to the stretcher. The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office also ruled it an accidental death.
A Broward Sheriff’s Office homicide investigation and a Broward County Grand Jury also concluded his death was accidental. No criminal charges were filed and none of the deputies or emergency medical personnel involved was disciplined.
There are increasing calls for the case to be reopened .
County Commissioner Dale Holness, asked about Loukinen’s testimony, said, “Joking about any person’s death is unacceptable. There should be a second look at this case. It begs for justice and my heart goes out to the (Brown’s) family.”
*Pictured above is the late Oral Brown.
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