By ELGIN JONES
MARGATE — A local civil rights organization is calling for the reopening of the 11-year-old case of Oral Brown who died after being beaten and hog-tied by sheriff’s deputies and paramedics.
The call has come from the Rev. Dennis Grant, president of Margate-based People For Equal Rights and Justice, Inc.
“Based on what was presented in your reports,” Grant told South Florida Times, “I think the facts were swept under the rug and this case should be reopened. “It’s terrible what happened and we now know there are a lot of facts that were never considered, for whatever reason. We will ask the governor to step in and re-open the case.”
Grant said he had not contacted the Broward State Attorney’s Office, or the Broward Sheriff’s Office to let them know of his concern but has been meeting with “civil rights leaders and members of the community.” A letter will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott asking that the case be reviewed, he said.
Local prosecutors have expressed a willingness to review the case.
“We'll be happy to look at any additional information regarding the death of Mr. Brown,” Broward State Attorney spokesman Ron Ishoy said in an email to South Florida Times.
“It is only after reviewing that new information that we will be able to make a decision as to what the next step might be.”
Brown, a 37-year-old businessman, suffered a seizure while driving on Oct. 15, 2001. His SUV crashed through a fence at the Swap Shop flea market in the 3400 block of West Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale and landed upside down, trapping him inside.
According to Broward Sheriff’s deputies and county paramedics, Brown was cut from the wreckage and was disoriented. They said he became combative and did not respond to orders. They said they had to subdue and restrain him by hog-tying. Witnesses have disputed those claims, saying Brown was beaten and forcibly wrestled to the ground without cause.
Brown was strapped face down on a stretcher and transported to a hospital, where emergency room staff attempted to revive him without success. Seeing his condition, they called police and a homicide investigation was opened.
An autopsy determined the hog-tying caused “positional asphyxia” — which is suffocation due to the way he was restrained. The medical examiner, a homicide investigation and grand jury all concluded Brown’s death was accidental.
An ongoing investigation by South Florida Times has uncovered several potential conflicts of interests, eye witnesses who contradict the accounts by emergency personnel but were never called to testify, and other unexplained occurrences.
Brown’s widow filed a lawsuit over his death but it was dismissed by a judge who, it turned out, had also presided over the grand jury proceedings but never revealed that potential conflict of interest.
She also had relatives working for the Broward Sheriff’s Office at the time.
Also, a report by the Broward County Fire Rescue Division cited several mistakes made by paramedics in their treatment of Brown. That report is not in prosecutors’ case files and was likely never provided to the grand jury.
A Broward Sheriff’s Office homicide investigation referred to the medical examiner’s autopsy report several times. However, the detective who wrote it listed the pathologist by her maiden name, instead of her married name, which she used on the autopsy report. The pathologist turns out to be the wife of the detective who supervised the homicide investigation.
In addition, three witnesses have said they saw Brown having convulsions while driving alongside them and they called 911. They said they saw his SUV crash and flip over. They pulled over and went to his aide. They have said Brown was not combative, as the homicide report claims, and was only disoriented.
Those witnesses have said Brown was kicked, choked and beaten by emergency personnel after he was not able to follow their directives.
The witnesses said they sought out investigators at the scene and told them they wanted to give statements. After not being contacted, they followed up with phone calls to the Broward Sheriff’s Office a few days later and left their names. They said they were never contacted and were unaware any investigation or Grand Jury proceedings had taken place until being contacted by the South Florida Times.
Grant, founder and pastor-emeritus of Restoration Ministries church in Margate, described those factors as “disturbing” and said he doubted they were all coincidences.
“It’s about justice,” Grant said. “There are just too many questions to remain silent and (prosecutors and sheriff’s deputies) won’t do what’s right unless they are pushed from the top.”
*Pictured above is Rev. Dennis Grant
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