The family of Kevin Desir says it has always suspected foul play from Broward County sheriff’s deputies, and they believe a new independent autopsy supports their claims.
Desir, 43, died on Jan. 27, 2021, while in Broward County Sheriff’s deputies’ custody in the Broward jail after they extracted him from his cell. His death has sparked outrage from his family and community alike. They say the autopsy suggests deputies have more culpability in Desir’s death than previously announced by authorities.
“I always thought the Broward State Attorney should have sought a second opinion,” Jeremy McLymont, Desir’s family attorney, said. “The medical examiner from Broward basically made it seem as though nothing happened, and Kevin was at fault, and he basically died from nothing basically.”
The new independent autopsy concluded Desir’s death was a homicide by manual strangulation after deputies restrained him. It says Desir’s neck and carotid arteries were compressed for more than three minutes. The report goes on to say, “a completely healthy individual under no prerequisite stress could succumb to that.”
Broward County’s medical examiner report says Desir was conscious and combative while deputies tried to hold him in a restraint chair. During the restraint, “one guard held his chin. He suddenly looked motionless while medical personnel checked his pulse and blood pressure,” the report said.
The description of how the guard handled Desir’s chin appears to be the pivotal discrepancy in the two autopsy reports.
The independent medical examiner’s report points out trauma to Desir’s neck that is not clearly described in Broward County’s original medical examination report.
“It’s a carotid choke,” McLymont said, describing the method employed by deputies to subdue Desir. The Justice Department indicates the carotid restraint technique restricts blood flow to the brain, causing temporary unconsciousness.
“There was notable finding of vaguely circular hemorrhages in the high anterior-lateral triangle platysma muscle that corresponded histologically to an injury sustained at least many hours to days prior to Mr. Desir’s clinical death, and it would be consistent with deep forceful application of fingertips to the anterior-lateral neck,” the report from pathologist Dr. Daniel Schultz said.
Schultz says the neck hemorrhages Desir sustained “we not described or photographed on the original autopsy” because the hemorrhages were discovered after further examining Desir’s jaw.
In Broward County’s medical examination of Desir, performed by Dr. Gertrude Juste, she more vaguely describes Desir’s final moments leading up to a state of unresponsiveness as deputies restrained him.
“The videotaped incident was carefully reviewed by me, on the day of the autopsy and a second time, on April 13, 2021. It shows Mr. Desir to be conscious and still combative after being strapped in the chair, held by the extremities while one guard held his chin. He suddenly looked motionless while medical personnel checked his pulse and blood pressure, making the decision to lay him down on the floor and start resuscitation,” Juste noted in the original medical examiner report.
The independent autopsy comes nearly two years after Desir’s death. McLymont says the delays stem from the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office withholding records related to Desir’s death. Florida law permits medical examiners to withhold evidence obtained through an autopsy connected to an ongoing law enforcement investigation. McLymont says the private medical examiner, Schultz, had to work around the delays for information extending the report’s completion to 22 months.
Days before his death, Desir had been in jail since Jan. 13, 2021, on criminal mischief and felony marijuana possession charges, and the day he died, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office claimed, he was cutting himself inside his cell.
At the time, the medical examiner’s report said, Desir was running his fingers along the metal edges of the mirror in the jail cell. Once deputies took him out of his cell to assess his injuries, Desire became violent and started kicking and spitting. Desir was then placed into a restraint chair, and as deputies tried to restrain him, the 43-year-old became unresponsive and later died at a local hospital.
Shortly after Desir’s death, the Broward County Medical Examiner initially ruled his cause of death as “undetermined.” Atlanta Black Star followed up with the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office for a response after the second independent autopsy contradicted their findings.
In a statement sent to Atlanta Black Star, the Broward County Medical Examiner spokesperson said, “The Broward County Office of the Medical Examiner and Trauma Services’ determination of Cause of Death and Manner of Death relied on a complete examination of the body, medical records, histology, an outside neuropathology report, and the totality of the circumstances surrounding this investigation, including review of the complete video. Every examination performed at the Medical Examiner’s office is separate and independent from any law enforcement agency.”
“If Broward Medical Examiner’s office feels that our Medical Examiner is wrong, then open up the files and let everyone see and other Medical Examiners make their determination,” McLymont said, reacting to Broward County Medical Examiner standing by his initial findings.
In June of 2021, the Broward County Assistant State Attorney closed the case into Desir’s death with no criminal charges against deputies, claiming at the time, “the facts of the case do not support any criminal charges.”
Since the release of the new autopsy, Atlanta Black Star sought further comment from the Broward County State Attorney’s Office.
“The private autopsy report you mentioned has not been provided to the Broward State Attorney’s Office. If Dr. Schultz or the family will provide it to Assistant State Attorney Chris Killoran, he is very willing to review those findings. In all cases in which prosecutors decline to file criminal charges, our prosecutors are always open to reviewing new evidence or information when it is provided,” Broward County State Attorney’s office said.
Mikeco Desir, Kevin Desir’s younger brother, says the family has been in a nonstop fight for transparency from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. They hope the new autopsy brings them closer to finding justice and accountability.
“We do want justice to be served,” Mikeco Desir said. “How do you get justice and how do you get to the bottom of things and get the answers when they continue to beat around and not be forthcoming,” he continued criticizing the Broward County Sheriff’s Office’s handling of his brother’s case.
Atlanta Black Star also sought an updated comment from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, but our requests were not returned by the time of this report. Video of Desir’s death exists, but nearly two years after he died, it still has not been made public, another demand from the family.
“We want to get the video released,” Mikeco Desire exclaimed.
The family feels video alongside the new autopsy report, will apply added pressure against deputies involved in Desir’s death.
“We’re going on two years already. The 27th of next month will make two years since my brother’s passing,” Mikeco Desir lamented.
McLymont says, in the coming weeks, they plan to file a civil rights lawsuit against the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the individual deputies involved.