By ELGIN JONES
LAUDERDALE LAKES – A prominent state legislator has joined calls for Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to reopen the 2001 case of an auto accident victim who died after being beaten and hog-tied by first responders.
This latest request comes from state Rep. Hazelle P. Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes, and follows a series of exclusive South Florida Times investigative reports on the death of 37-year-old Lauderdale Lakes businessman Oral Brown.
“As the press coverage has increased, and the facts of this tragic case have been developed and disclosed over several weeks of investigative reporting, I have been bombarded by a number of inquiries from constituents concerned that there were significant irregularities surrounding this case,” Rogers said in a letter to Scott dated Sept. 5.
Rogers is the Democratic Deputy Whip in the state House of Representatives. “I have been following this and it’s a tragedy,” she said this week.
Rogers said she has distributed her letter to the Broward Black Elected Officials organization and the statewide Democratic Black Caucus of Florida. She is expecting other elected officials “to join the cause,” she said.
Brown suffered a seizure while driving on Oct. 15, 2001. His SUV crashed through a fence at the Swap Shop Flea Market in Fort Lauderdale and landed upside down, trapping him in the vehicle. Emergency workers who freed Brown from the wreckage said he became combative, forcing them to subdue and restrain him by hog-tying. Witnesses have disputed those claims, saying Brown was beaten, placed in a chokehold and wrestled to the ground without cause.
Brown was strapped face down on a stretcher and taken to a hospital emergency room where staff discovered he was not breathing, did not have a pulse and was covered in his own fluids. They argued with deputies, who at first refused to untie him. Attempts to revive Brown were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead. Based on what had taken place, hospital staff took the unusual step of calling police and a homicide investigation was opened.
An autopsy determined Brown suffocated as a result of being hog-tied but concluded his death was accidental. A homicide investigation and grand jury reached the same conclusion.
The governor’s office is already considering a request to reopen the case from the Rev. Dennis Grant, president of the Margate-based civil rights organization People for Equal Rights and Justice Inc.
“We have yet to hear from the governor but hopefully he will do the right things to see that justice is served,” Grant said this week. “We are fully prepared to make a request to the Justice Department but we want to give the governor an opportunity to lead the effort.”
An ongoing investigation by the South Florida Times has uncovered potential conflicts of interest, eyewitnesses who contradict official versions of what happened but were never called to testify, and other unexplained occurrences:
• The judge who presided over the grand jury proceedings also heard and dismissed a lawsuit filed by Brown’s widow over his death but did not reveal the potential conflict of interest.
• That judge also had a sister and brother-in-law who worked for the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The brother-in-law also worked for two security firms owned by then Sheriff Ken Jenne, but she never disclosed the relationships even though Jenne was named in the lawsuit.
• A critical report by the Broward County Fire Rescue Division concluded that several mistakes were made by paramedics in their treatment of Brown. That report was not presented to prosecutors or the grand jury.
• The Broward Sheriff’s Office homicide investigation referred to the medical examiner’s autopsy report several times and listed the pathologist by her maiden name. The pathologist, who ruled Brown’s death an accident, is actually the wife of the detective who supervised and conducted the homicide investigation. This information was not revealed in any of the reports or disclosed to the Grand Jury.
• Three witnesses have said they saw Brown having convulsions while driving alongside them and they were on the phone with a 911 operator as his SUV crashed and flipped over. They stopped to help him. They have told the South Florida Times that Brown was disoriented, but not combative, as the homicide report claims.
Those witnesses also said Brown was kicked, choked and beaten by emergency personnel after he was unable to follow their instructions.
They and other witnesses say they were unaware of the homicide investigation and were not contacted to testify before the grand jury.
In her letter, Rogers is asking Scott to “Commission an independent and neutral review of the facts and circumstances leading to Mr. Brown’s tragic and untimely death, including the events and circumstances that transpired in the subsequent investigatory and judicial proceedings.”
Read the Letter Here
*Pictured above is Rep. Hazelle P. Rogers
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