FORT LAUDERDALE – The head of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Professional Standards has been put in charge of a BSO review of the investigation into the 2001 death of businessman Oral Brown.
BSO spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said the review by BSO Col. John “Jack” Dale will also involve other units such as the Criminal Investigation Division.
General Counsel Ron Gunzberger, who was directed by Sheriff Scott Israel in January to begin the process of posibly reopening the Brown case, is also participating in the review process.
“Since day one, the sheriff has wanted this matter thoroughly reviewed and that is what’s happening,” Coleman-Wright said. "We’ll know how to move foward based on what is discovered.”
Dale is a veteran police official with more than two decades of service with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. When Israel took office, Dale was tapped to join Israel’s command team. An experienced investigator, he is also the director of BSO’s Institute for Criminal Justice Studies.
Brown was involved in a single-car accident at the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale. First responders reported he was belligerent after he was freed from the wreckage and that he had to be forcibly subdued.
Brown was hog-tied and strapped face down on a stretcher and taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The official cause of death was that he suffocated in his bodily fluids. Brown’s family sued over his death and the case is making it’s way through the courts.
An ongoing South Florida Times investigation has turnned up information that casts doubt on the accidental death conclusion, including how he came to have injuries to his neck. In the latest discovery, a public records request has confirmed that the medical examiner’s lab slides of Brown’s brain tissue from his autopsy are missing.
The tissue was sent to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office in 2001 for the slides to be made. Patricia Lecusay of the Miami-Dade ME’s office said the slides were made and sent to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Winer confirmed that the slides are missing.
Israel, who won election as sheriff in November, had pledged during his campaign that he would reopen the case.
“The Brown family appreciates Sheriff Israel’s having Mr. Brown’s death and its aftermath reviewed by BSO investigators,” Michael Winer, attorney for the Browns, said in a written statement.
Winer added that “a neutral, third party” should be responsible for reopening the case “to provide transparency.”
In a related development, South Florida Times has learned that Brown had a child who was a baby at the time of his death. Winer said he found out about the son after locating his mother, Pauline Henry, in late February following an extensive search, including the Internet.
Henry, who lives in Loxatahchee, said she thought that because so much time had passed, the matter had been forgotten and done with. That, combined with having to raise her son, who has been living with cerebral palsy since birth, made it difficult for her to focus on anything besides caring for the child, she said
“My full attention was on my son,” said Henry, who said she had to leave her job as an occupational therapist to provide full-time care for her son who is now 13 years old and was born prematurely at 24 weeks.
The boy’s ailment required him to have heart surgery as a newborn and he still has lingering cardiovascular problems, Henry said.
Henry said she still grieves for Brown and feels the absence of her child’s father deeply, given his involvement and affection for the boy.
“He was a hands-on dad,” said Henry. Brown, in fact, was on his way to pick up Henry and their son for a doctor’s appointment when he got into the accident, she said.
It is “very difficult not having his father in his life,” said Henry.
Because no one seemed to know where Henry was, much less the existence of Brown’s son, they did not figure in the efforts to have the case reopened. She said her son “was left out” of conversations about the aftermath of Brown’s death. Winer said that Henry has a place in the legal process and she, for her part, sees it as a right.
“Yes, I definitely want justice for Oral,” said Henry.
*Pictured above is the late Oral Brown.