BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – The family of a mentally ill inmate who died last month following an altercation with jail deputies held a news conference Thursday morning to call out what they said is the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s “cover up” and to demand that surveillance video of the altercation be released.
Kevin Lavira Desir’s family removed him from life support on Jan. 27, a week after the altercation.
“They thought Kevin’s life did not matter. That they would be able to sweep this under the rug. That no one loved Kevin enough to fight back. They thought wrong. We don’t believe, for one second, the story that BSO has put out,” civil rights attorney Jeremy McLymont said in a statement. “The family and I demand a transparent investigation into what actually happened to Kevin. If BSO Corrections did nothing wrong, there should be no delay in releasing the video and all records detailing what happened to Kevin.”
Desir, 43, was arrested by Coral Springs police on Jan. 6 for allegedly damaging his neighbor’s car. A week later he was arrested for marijuana possession.
Broward County Public Defender Gordon Weekes told the Miami Herald that jail staff pepper-sprayed Desir, used a stun gun and caused “a severe and irreversible brain injury.”
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony accused the public defender of making “unsubstantiated allegations.”
The attorneys representing Desir’s family claim that BSO is “covering up its tracks by releasing misleading statements to news outlets about what happened.”
Desir is survived by his two daughters, four brothers and mother.
His eldest brother, Moses Desir, told reporters Thursday that Kevin was grieving the loss of their father, who had died only a little over two months ago.
“And if you know any individual with mental illness and struggles with it, when they lose a loved one, they grieve. And they don’t grieve like we do,” he said.
Desir called out the sheriff for not yet releasing the video, saying he vowed to be transparent with the public.
“You were elected for that reason. You took an oath,” he said. “You’re in office to protect and serve. You did not protect and serve my brother. My brother was put in jail so he can sit in there until his court date. You guys were supposed to protect and serve him, and it was not done.”
A hearing over that video is expected to happen next week, though the specific day and time have not yet been finalized.
Desir said their call for justice and transparency is bigger than his brother or his family and another brother referenced other mentally ill inmates who have died while in the custody of the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
“Jail surveillance cameras are part of the jail’s security system plan, and the recordings from such cameras are confidential and exempt from disclosure,” a statement from the Broward Sheriff’s Office read.
The Desir family isn’t buying that explanation.
“If it was your son, your grandson, your brother, you would have been released that tape,” Moses Desir said. “You would have done that already and that’s all we’re asking for. Put yourself in our shoes!”
Local 10 News reporter Alex Finnie contributed to this article.