By ELGIN JONES EJones@SFLTimes.com
FORT LAUDERDALE — More contradictory evidence is emerging in the case of a Broward man whose family filed a lawsuit over his death after he was hog-tied by sheriff’s deputies and paramedics following a single-car accident.
Eyewitness accounts by a couple and their daughter who were driving alongside Oral Brown are the latest to contradict the official report of what happened after Brown suffered a seizure while driving and his SUV crashed into a Fort Lauderdale flea market.
“They forcefully took him to the ground by kicking and beating him and then tied him up like an animal,” said Yvonne Mora, a retired nurse who witnessed the Oct. 15, 2001 accident and the subsequent action by police and paramedics.
“One had his arm around his neck then another one kicked his feet out from under him. They were pushing his face into the ground and had a knee in his back, while punching him,” Mora said in an interview this week.
The 19-page homicide investigation report does not indicate that Brown was beaten, but does contain excerpts from deputies’ statements alleging Brown had been aggressive; grabbing one paramedic by the neck and lifting another into the air. Some of those statements allege Brown was bruised and bloodied from the accident, which Mora also disputes.
She said they were yelling at Brown to “get on the ground” and when he didn’t they “attacked” him.
“I was there and saw what happened. I guess they manipulated the facts,” Mora said. “He was not a threat to anyone and he was not combative. I looked at him when we went to see if we could help. I didn’t see any bruises and there certainly wasn’t any blood.”
Mora and her daughter Yvette (Wakefield) DeLaTorre said they provided deputies at the scene their names and contact information and insisted on giving statements about what they witnessed.
However, they said even though it was they who made the initial 911 calls about the accident, BSO investigators never contacted them. They were unaware that a homicide investigation and grand jury proceedings had taken place until reading about it in the South Florida Times.
BSO director of media relations Jim Leljedal did not respond to questions about Mora’s allegations nor explain why the family was not contacted during the investigation.
According to the family’s account, Mora and her husband George were in a van traveling along Sunrise Boulevard with DeLaTorre driving, when they saw an SUV drift into their lane. The driver, later identified as Brown, clutched his head with both hands and was shaking, they said, leading them to believe he might be having a seizure.
DeLaTorre called 911 as the SUV veered away and hit the curb, flipped over, crashed through a fence and landed upside down in the parking lot of the Swap Shop flea market. Yvonne Mora and DeLaTorre went to the driver’s aid and witnessed firsthand what happened next.
Broward Sheriff’s deputies and county paramedics arrived on the scene and freed Brown from the wreckage. They said he became combative and had to be subdued.
Brown, a 37-year-old naturalized citizen from Jamaica, was hog-tied and strapped face down on a stretcher. While being taken to the hospital, his condition was not monitored and he received no medical attention. He arrived at the emergency room still hog-tied, bloodied and covered in his own fluids. Attempts by hospital staff to revive him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead. Seeing his condition, emergency room personnel called police, who opened a homicide investigation.
An autopsy determined the hog-tying caused “positional asphyxia” — which is suffocation due to the way he was restrained —which killed him. The medical examiner, the homicide investigation and a grand jury all concluded Brown’s death was accidental.
Brown’s family filed suit and the case remains pending in the courts.
At the time of the incident, DeLaTorre worked in the fast food industry but is now a firefighter with the Hallandale Beach Fire Department. Her account of what occurred also contradicts the information contained in the homicide report.
“When we saw him after the accident, he was disoriented and very confused,” DeLaTorre said. “He didn’t pick anyone up in the air and never hit anyone. He was just stumbling around and making noises. I could tell he was having a seizure.”
DeLaTorre said deputies and paramedics were “very aggressive” toward Brown and appeared to be “afraid of him.”
She also said she saw him being beaten.
“He wasn’t trying to harm anyone and just didn’t understand what was going on around him,” DeLaTorre said. “We were trying to tell them he was having a seizure.”
Mora and DeLaTorre were located through information they provided when making the 911 calls and gave the same accounts during depositions in the Brown family’s lawsuit.
Another eyewitness, James Normile, an ophthalmologist who was the first bystander to assist Brown, did give a statement to investigators, but said they never informed him that there was a homicide investigation or that a grand jury was looking into his death.
*Pictured above is the late Oral Brown
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