scott-israel-w2.jpgBy ELGIN JONES
EJones@SFLTimes.com

FORT LAUDERDALE —  The Democratic nominee for Broward County sheriff says if elected he would reopen an investigation into the 11-year-old death of a black businessman who was hog-tied by sheriff’s deputies and county paramedics after a single-vehicle accident.

Candidate Scott Israel, who said people have been approaching him at campaign events and asking him about the case, is meanwhile calling on Gov. Rick Scott to immediately appoint a special prosecutor to reopen the investigation.

“I have been following this in the newspaper and it demands further investigation,” Israel said, referring to a series of exclusive reports in the South Florida Times.

“I have been speaking to community leaders and church pastors about it and as a law enforcement officer with more than 30 years’ experience, it’s clear there are more than enough questions to warrant an investigation.”

Several eyewitnesses to the accident and Brown’s subsequent hog-tying say he was placed in a chokehold and beaten by first responders who then restrained and hog-tied him. Those witnesses say they were never contacted to give statements to detectives and were not told of any grand jury hearings.

 “Clearly, I am not alleging wrongdoing on the part of anyone involved in the aforementioned investigations,” Israel said in his letter to Scott. “However, I strongly feel that a complete collection of documents and evidence must be gathered and reviewed by an independent body. Mr. Brown’s family is entitled to have a full, fair and impartial investigation of the actions which led to his death. Our community’s concern is finding the truth and ensuring that justice prevails.”

Israel appeared with clergy and community leaders at a press conference held at the African American Research Library in unincorporated Broward County, located west of Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 11.

His request for the case to be reopened joins those already made by state Rep. Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes, the Rev. Dennis Grant, president of the People for Equal Rights and Justice Inc. civil rights organization and Walter “Mickey” Hinton, president of the Durrs Community Association.

Scott has yet to make a decision on those requests.

Israel is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Sheriff Al Lamberti in the Nov. 6 election and he is the first candidate to publicly express concern over the controversial hog-tying case. He criticized Lamberti for having a “lack of respect and compassion for justice and Brown’s family.”

The Broward Sheriff’s Office did not respond to questions about Israel’s call for a special prosecutor. Lamberti has yet to comment on the case and his campaign did not respond to questions.

Brown, a Lauderdale Lakes businessman, was the victim of a single-vehicle rollover accident while apparently having a seizure on Oct. 15, 2001. His SUV crashed through a fence and landed upside down in the parking lot of the Swap Shop Flea Market in Fort Lauderdale.

First responders who arrived on the scene said Brown was “combative” and they had to forcibly restrain him after he did not respond to their commands to sit down on a stretcher. They then hog-tied him and strapped him face down on a gurney.

Official reports do not indicate that they rendered care to him while he was being transported to a hospital emergency room, where he arrived with no pulse and was not breathing.

He was pronounced dead a short time later.

An autopsy performed by the Broward Medical Examiner concluded Brown’s death was due to being hog-tied, where he suffocated from positional asphyxia, but also determined it was accidental.  A Broward Sheriff’s Office homicide investigation reached the same conclusion, as did a grand jury.

An ongoing series of South Florida Times investigations has found conflicts of interests and witnesses who say they were never contacted to provide statements or to testify before the grand jury.

Unsubstantiated information that was included in the Broward Sheriff’s Office homicide report has also been uncovered.

The autopsy’s finding of petechial hemorrhaging, or ruptured blood vessels in Brown’s eyes, which could be an indication of strangulation, was not mentioned in the homicide report.