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During the 38 years he lived on earth, Marlon Brown wasn’t what most people would call a perfect man. He was divorced, he’d been arrested dozens of times according to ABC News, and he’d even served a jail sentence for drug possession. Whatever was in his past, however, on May 8th, 2013, Marlon Brown was just trying to go home -a poignant fact that made his death all the more tragic.

How did he die, you ask? Was it a car accident? He was in a rough neighbourhood after midnight. Did he get shot? The answer is “none of the above”. He was run over by a DeLand police cruiser.

“I think he’s underneath the fucking car!”

As is always the case in these situations, everything began innocently enough. Shortly after midnight on May 8th, 2013, DeLand police attempted to stop a driver. The flashing lights and the screaming sirens made an appearance and as the car in question slowed down, it seemed like the only question was whether the driver would be getting ticketed or let off with a warning. That is until the suspect ran.

Several other officers responded to the call and it quickly became a race to see who would reach the fence sooner. The suspect or the officers behind him. Former Deland Police Officer James Harris opted to give chase from behind the wheel with deadly results. When Marlon Brown tripped in front of the fence, he dropped out of the dash cam’s view and the car rolled over top of him.

You can see the footage for yourself:

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A witness described the grisly aftermath to the Daytona Beach News Journal:

“I can't sleep and can't eat and I have this vision in my head,” Laheia Olvera, 23, said in a telephone interview. “From his neck to his waist, he was completely smashed. His head was swelled up.”
Marlon Brown ultimately died from mechanical asphyxiation. In other words, he was unable to breathe because he was pinned under the police cruiser.

You’d think that this would have happened over something serious like an armed robbery or a murder attempt, but here’s the truth: the DeLand police were stopping Marlon Brown for a seatbelt violation. That’s right. He lost his life over a seatbelt.

To their credit, the police department was fairly prompt in their response to this unnecessary death. They issued a prepared statement and Harris was fired after an internal review. Meanwhile the city of DeLand quickly settled with the victim’s family to the tune of half a million dollars.

Likely figuring that a lesser charge would be easier to sell than say Manslaughter or Murder 2, the State Attorney decided to charge Harris with Vehicular Manslaughter.

In Florida, this is covered under section 782.071:

“782.071 Vehicular homicide.—“Vehicular homicide” is the killing of a human being, or the killing of a viable fetus by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.”
Here are the relevant jury instructions that list the respective elements:
To prove the crime of [Vehicular] [Vessel] Homicide, the State must prove more than a failure to use ordinary care, and must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1.    (Victim) is dead.
2.    The death was caused by the operation of a [motor vehicle] [vessel] by (defendant).
3.    (Defendant) operated the [motor vehicle] [vessel] in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of or great bodily harm to another person.
An intent by the defendant to harm or injure the victim or any other person is not an element to be proved by the State.”

Unfortunately for Marlon Brown's loved ones, this case won't be making it to trial.

The grand jury refused to sign off on the charges against Harris.

"Justice is what has to happen here, and the grand jury has spoken, and their decision is final," said State Attorney R.J. Larizza.”

Make of it what you will.


Originally posted to Gloria Kartal on Tue Sep 24, 2013 at 04:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by Police Accountability Group.

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