'Hog-tying' death report faults Fla. medics
Report cites 9 'failures' that it says cumulatively may have led to man's death
By Elgin Jones
South Florida Times
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — An internal investigation by Broward County’s Fire Rescue division concluded that errors by emergency personnel may have caused the death of a Lauderhill man who suffocated after being “hog-tied” by Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies and county paramedics.
But it’s likely the report from the investigation was never presented to a grand jury that investigated the 11-year-old tragedy. In fact, the report cites nine “failures” that it says, “accumulatively (sic) may have led to Mr. Brown’s demise.”
Oral Brown, 37, died after being beaten, forcibly restrained and “hog-tied” following an accident on Oct. 15, 2001.
Brown suffered a seizure and his SUV crashed through a fence at the Swap Shop flea market on Sunrise Boulevard. His vehicle landed on its roof and he had to be cut from the wreckage. According to emergency crews who responded to the scene, Brown was disoriented, resisted treatment and began flailing once he was freed.
Brown’s hands were cuffed behind his back, his ankles were bound together using plastic straps known as “flex cuffs,” his legs were bent behind him and his ankles tied to his handcuffs with a belt. He was then strapped facedown to a stretcher, and transported to Broward General Medical Center, where emergency room personnel ordered him to be untied and unsuccessfully attempted to revive him.
An autopsy found Brown’s death to be accidental, and the official cause was “positional asphyxia,” meaning he was unable to breathe, due to the manner in which he was tied up.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office conducted a homicide investigation into his death and also concluded his death was accidental.
In response to a pubic records request by the South Florida Times for a copy of the report, the records custodian for the state attorney’s office said, “In regards to the document requested, please be advised that memo was not located in our file.”
Broward Assistant State Attorney Tony Loe, who presented the case to the grand jury, did not respond to questions about it.
Fire Rescue is now a division of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Spokesman Jim Leljedal said Internal Affairs conducted an investigation, "where the charges were not sustained” and that “all cases before 2004 were destroyed."
However, a copy of the report obtained by the South Florida Times is stamped "confidential" and is dated Dec. 6, 2001. It does not appear in the files of evidence presented to the grand jury.
The report shows that Fire Rescue conducted its own investigation and senior department officials met to discuss the case. Wayne Mailliard, then the department’s deputy chief of operations, wrote the three-page report.
"Although Mr. Brown was a large man, certain steps could have been taken to insure his well-being during the transport to the treating facility, in this writer's opinion," Mailliard wrote.
The report lists a series of "failures" by paramedics, including failing to monitor Brown’s pulse, breathing and oxygen level. It said paramedics failed to have a law enforcement officer in the ambulance to unlock the handcuffs. Also, no paramedic sat at Brown’s head, as is required.
The Fire Rescue investigative file and report could have influenced the case, according to an attorney representing Brown’s family, who filed a civil rights lawsuit over his death.
"Without a doubt it is a critical piece of evidence," said attorney Michael Winer. "The fire department concluded after an investigation that the paramedics did not electronically monitor Mr. Brown and failed to realize that he was in full cardiac and respiratory arrest and they did not follow their policies or training."
Broward State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy declined to comment on the report. He said Loe, the prosecutor, believes Brown’s death was an unfortunate "tragedy."
"Our attorneys tell me that the law is very clear that what goes on in the grand jury room is totally confidential, including what evidence is presented," Ishoy said.
A judge —who also presided over the grand jury deliberations — dismissed the lawsuit but the decision was reversed. A second judge also ruled against the Brown family and that decision is on appeal.
Reprinted with permission of the South Florida Times