The Death Of The Sailor Who Drowned During Navy SEAL Training Was Ruled A Homicide


U.S. Navy

Back in May, a U.S. sailor died during his first week of Navy SEAL training. .

Now, an NCIS investigation into James Derek Lovelace’s death during the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course has classified his drowning as a homicide.

From The Washington Post:

Video surveillance obtained by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and reviewed by a medical-examiner investigator shows that when Lovelace struggled during a swimming exercise, one instructor on a platform pointed him out to a second one in the water. The second instructor approached Lovelace, dunked him and then followed him around the pool for five minutes, according to a report obtained Wednesday from the San Diego County medical examiner’s office.

“He continually splashes the decedent, dunks him at least one additional time, and appears to be yelling at him,” the report said. “The decedent is also splashed by other individuals during the event. At one point in the video, another individual in the water is seen pulling him up and away from the instructor.”

The incident occurred during what the SEALs call combat swimmer orientation, the report said. Students tread water while wearing camouflage utility uniforms, boots and masks filled with water. Instructors are supposed to create “adverse” conditions by splashing, making waves and yelling at the students without dunking or pulling them underwater.

According to the Navy Times, the report deemed the actions of the instructor “excessive.”

“Although the manner of death could be considered by some as an accident, especially given that the decedent was in a rigorous training program that was meant to simulate an ‘adverse’ environment, it is our opinion that the actions, and inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death, and the manner of death is best classified as homicide,” according to the opinion in the report written by Dr. Kimi Verilhac, a forensic pathologist.

A Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman said that one instructor, whose name has not been released, was pulled from training duties after Lovelace’s death, and has not returned to duty.

The investigation into the death, despite the classification of it as a homicide, is still ongoing.

Ed Buice, an NCIS spokesman, said in an email Wednesday that it is important to note that a homicide ruling refers to “death at the hands of another” and is “not inherently a crime.”

The details released in an autopsy report do not “signal that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into Seaman Lovelace’s death has culminated, nor that conclusions have been reached regarding criminal culpability,” Buice said. “The NCIS investigation is open and active and NCIS does not discuss the details of ongoing investigations.”

[Via The Washington Post]

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