Investigation or Cover-up?

Charles Eimers Photo provided by Treavor Eimers

Charles Eimers Photo provided by Treavor Eimers

Disturbing elements of a cover-up have emerged this week in the mysterious death of Charles Eimers.

Charles Eimers died on Thanksgiving Day of last year while being arrested by Key West police.  The cause of his “in custody death” has been the subject of intense controversy.  The whole debate about the will of the police department to investigate itself escalated tenfold when it was discovered that detectives nearly allowed Eimers’ body to be cremated before an autopsy could shed some light on the cause of death.

Since then the main question has been: did detective Todd Stevens deliberately fail to notify the medical examiner in the hopes that the evidence against fellow officers would disappear into smoke (which according to Bob Dean of Dean Lopez Funeral Home almost happened) or did he just not know that Charles Eimers’ family had removed him from life support?

“He didn’t know,” said Chief Donie Lee on US 1 Radio, “because he was not keeping in constant contact with the family or the hospital.”

But Charles Eimers’ son Treavor claims he had a long conversation with Stevens on the 5th of December, the day after Charles Eimers was removed from life support.   Treavor says one of the first things he said to Stevens was that he was sorry he hadn’t called him back the night before but his father had passed and he had been too troubled to call.

phone recordTreavor Eimers provided The Blue Paper with a copy of his phone records, which clearly show that an 8-minute conversation took place between Treavor Eimers and Todd Stevens beginning at 2:16 p.m. on December 5th -  the day after Charles Eimers’ was pronounced dead.

Stevens was issued a three-page Letter of Reprimand for his failure to notify the medical examiner of Eimers’ death.  He seems to accept responsibility for everything and his apparently false statement (claiming that he didn’t speak to Treavor Eimers after the 4th of December) was accepted by the Department at face value.

The most disturbing fact is that it appears that neither Captain Scott Smith, who wrote the letter of reprimand, nor Chief Lee who signed off on it, called Treavor Eimers to simply ask him whether or not he had informed Stevens of his father’s death and yet they were ostensibly “investigating” a potentially serious crime.  Under Florida Statute 406.12, failure to notify the medical examiner of a death in custody is one notch below a felony.  So, why didn’t the Department conduct even the slightest investigation by simply making a phone call to Treavor Eimers?

Could Todd Stevens be the “fall guy”?

The Department has been trumpeting Steven’s demotion from the rank of detective, but the demotion apparently doesn’t include a pay reduction. And why doesn’t the expulsion from the Criminal Investigation Unit appear on the list of penalties shown in the Letter of Reprimand?  In fact, Captain Smith signed the letter on December 12th and Chief Donie Lee on December 13th and yet according to chain of custody documents, on the 17th of December Stevens was still logging new evidence in the Charles Eimers’ “death investigation”.

The investigation into the death itself now depends heavily on the results of the autopsy – at press time the medical examiner had still not published his conclusions.

However, new information has surfaced concerning the mindset and practices of at least one of the officers who arrested Eimers on South Beach.

“I have done it a hundred times,” he said.  One of those times was on December 8, 2009:  Key West Police Officer Gary Lee Lovette had grabbed the foot of Jamal Coleman, a homeless man sleeping on a wall near Mallory Square.  He pulled violently, spun the man in mid-air, and watched him crash onto the sidewalk.  He was able to offer his infamous “I’ve done it a hundred times” justification because at least that time a tourist named Nan Godet was so shocked by his aggressive behavior that she actually spent some of her vacation time filing a complaint and being cross-examined by KWPD investigators.   Lovette was issued a written reprimand and lost 12 hours of vacation pay that year, but went on to become one of the Key West Police officers who on Thanksgiving Day of last year participated in the arrest of a tourist on South Beach – a Mr. Charles Eimers – who did not survive the arrest.

Like Jamal Coleman, Charles Eimers was presumed homeless “living out of his car”.  Did strong-arm practices “used a hundred times” result in the death of Charles Eimers?  “I know how frustrating it must be to deal with the same people over and over,” said Ms. Godet during the 2009 investigation, “but I was disturbed by how aggressive the officer [Lovette] was.”

In the Coleman case Lovette made no attempt to wake up the man in any other way than by spinning him off the wall.  Both men then began to argue and Lovette reportedly yelled, “I’ll take off my badge and fight you right now.”

So how hot was Lovette’s blood during the Eimers arrest?  Eimers was not just innocently sleeping on a wall, he was on the run and being chased down by several other police officers.

As Eimers’ PT cruiser zoomed in front of Lovette’s patrol car he activated his lights and siren to try to get Eimers to stop, but Eimers blew him off.  Lovette then raced Eimers, running parallel on Whitehead Street, and caught up with him at the end of Duval.  At that point officers were already handcuffing the 61-year old Eimers who lay face down in the sand.  There’s been some speculation that Eimers may have been suffocating in the sand and that his struggle to breathe was misconstrued as resisting arrest.  Lovette pulled out his Taser and yelled pre-firing warnings.    If we are to believe two eyewitnesses who spoke with The Blue Paper, Eimers was tased until he died.  Lovette later allegedly admitted that he elbowed Eimers in the head, which resulted in immediate ‘compliance’.  In fact, Eimers stopped breathing, turned blue and would never regain consciousness.

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To access all Blue Paper coverage on the death of Charles Eimers click here.

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The 2013 Florida Statutes

Title XXIX

PUBLIC HEALTH

Chapter 406

MEDICAL EXAMINERS; DISPOSITION OF HUMAN REMAINS

406.12 Duty to report; prohibited acts.—It is the duty of any person in the district where a death occurs, including all municipalities and unincorporated and federal areas, who becomes aware of the death of any person occurring under the circumstances described in s. 406.11 to report such death and circumstances forthwith to the district medical examiner. Any person who knowingly fails or refuses to report such death and circumstances, who refuses to make available prior medical or other information pertinent to the death investigation, or who, without an order from the office of the district medical examiner, willfully touches, removes, or disturbs the body, clothing, or any article upon or near the body, with the intent to alter the evidence or circumstances surrounding the death, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

History.—s. 7, ch. 70-232; s. 353, ch. 71-136.