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Suffolk Co. Sheriff's deputy tape investigation

February 22, 2011 3:35:29 PM PST
Eyewitness News performed an investigation into some potentially explosive tapes.

They were tapes of internal phone conversations made by Suffolk County Sheriff's deputies about a young man in custody who later died of brain trauma.

Eyewitness News played the tapes for the public exclusively for the first time ever.

"It's never going to go away for me," said Gary Eriksen, the victim's brother.

What will never go away for Gary Eriksen, is the image of his brother, Scott, lying brain dead in a hospital in June of 2005, just hours after the two young men had been arrested by Suffolk County Sheriff's deputies.

The brothers were taken to a holding cell in Central Islip for processing.

"Their claim that he threw a punch and fell," said Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Sarah Wallace.

"That's not true. He never swung at all. He stiffened up as soon as they grabbed him," Eriksen said.

Deputies inside the facility would later testify that Scott fell hard on the cell floor after scuffling with one of the arresting officers, Edward "Eddie" Simovich.

"Let's talk about what you remember," Wallace said.

"That my brother was grabbed by the neck, dragged into the cell, slammed against the wall and slammed to the floor. That's what happened," Eriksen said.

It turns out there is a taped conversation that supports what Gary says, but the family says they only learned about that tape recently as part of a federal lawsuit they filed.

They also learned the tape was never played for the grand jury.

"Typical mouthy 20-year-old," said the voice of Sgt. Jeffrey Noss.

He called his Captain the night of the incident to advise him what happened in the doorway of the cell after Scott mouthed off to Deputy Eddie Simovich.

Sgt. Noss: "Like I said, Eddie didn't do nothing crazy. He didn't punch him, didn't hit him, he just grabbed him and said, 'Shut your friggin' mouth,' and he just threw him in the cell, you know, 'get in there,' and he lost it and bam! But like I said, he hit really hard. I mean, like my spine shook, you know? It was like still when you heard the noise."

Captain: "Yeah."

Sgt. Noss: "Like a coconut cracking. Holy!"

Captain: "Yeah, you took the words out of my mouth, like a coconut."

Sgt. Noss: "I actually turned around and expected to see the blood coming out of his head right away. He hit so hard. I mean, it like stunned me when I turned around and heard the noise, I was like, what?"

Captain: "This may ..."

Sgt. Noss: "You know, this one is going to bite us in the ass."

But no deputies were criminally charged. Not even disciplined. The case of death was ruled accidental.

Eyewitness News tried to ask Sergeant Noss about the tape, but was referred to the county attorney.

"I think they didn't want the truth to come out. They buried this tape in hopes they might get away with it," said Tony Grandinette, the Eriksen family's attorney.

Records show deputies waited an hour and a half after Scott hit his head to first call for an ambulance.

He died from contusions to the brain and hemorrhages. .

"Once his head hit the floor that hard and you heard it hit that way, they should have automatically brought him to the hospital. I don't care what they say," Eriksen said.

Eyewitness News' investigation continues Tuesday night with more internal tapes about the night Scott died, and the rest of his family speaks out for the first time.

Eyewitness News did try to reach out to deputies and others involved in this case and were referred to the Suffolk County Attorney.

She issued a brief statement denying the allegations and saying they are vigorously defending the lawsuit.

If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com and follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates


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