Mitchell “Brad” Martinez, 35, of Vero Beach, Florida, died late Tuesday evening after being placed on life support following an eight-minute ride to Indian River County Jail on Friday.
Investigators have yet to explain how he died.
But by all accounts, the Florida man seemed to had been in good health prior to entering the van following a court appearance in which a judge ruled he had violated his probation relating to a 2013 aggravated assault case, resulting in the judge revoking his bond.
Following the hearing, he was loaded into a transport van and placed in a holding area directly behind the driver, away from seven other inmates due to the fact that he was wearing his street clothing.
At some point during the 3.7-mile ride from the courthouse to the jail, Martinez became unresponsive.
It is currently unclear what happened during the 8-minute long ride, but the fact that he died under questionable circumstances following a ride in a jail transport van is reminiscent of the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore this year, which lead to six police officers facing criminal charges.
When the van arrived at the Indian County jail, Martinez was in cardiac arrest. He was immediately given medical attention and transported to the hospital where he was placed on life-support in the intensive care unit.
Friends and family noticed marks that appear to be approximately the width of a seat belt around his neck and took to Facebook to share the photos, creating a page called Justice for Brad Martinez to demand answers. Besides that tragic photo, other photos posted on the page reveal a perpetually smiling man who enjoyed boating and the company of friends and family.
From the Justice for Brad Martinez Facebook page:
“I have an interesting story regarding a friend who was in police custody and is now on life support. We can’t get any answers and figured we’d reach out for some help. Here is a photo of him on life support. You will notice the abrasions around his neck happened while in police custody.”
After receiving massive outcry over the photos posted to social media, the department was pressured to hold a press conference. Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar kicked off the press conference with an immediate attack on Martinez’ character, which is typical of police when they killed somebody.
Loar maintained that he did not have the marks while in custody, and provided no answers about what happened inside the transport van leading to a seemingly healthy man coming out in a coma, but he did rule out suicide. He also stated that his officers acted properly and claims this was an unfortunate event of a medical health issue happening while in transport.
The Indian County Sheriff’s Office posted the following statement on its Facebook page along with the two videos below of the press conference and of the transport van entering the jail.
“There have been a number of rumors circulating on social media today regarding inmate Mitchell Brad Martinez. This afternoon, Sheriff Loar spoke to the media regarding this case. Videos were shared with the media of Inmate Martinez entering the transport van and upon his arrival at the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. He was transported with seven other male inmates in the rear compartment, despite being separated. Both Corrections Transport Deputies reported no stops and the 8 minutes of elapsed time is consistent with the time it would take to drive the transport van from the Indian River County Courthouse to the Indian River County Jail. Upon arrival at the jail, deputies found Inmate Martinez unresponsive and began performing CPR on him as they awaited arrival of EMS. Inmate Martinez was then transported to Indian River Memorial Hospital where he remains on life support. At this time, we continue to investigate this incident to determine what may have caused Inmate Martinez to become unresponsive. Attached is the video of the transport van as it arrived at the Indian River County Jail.” The department wrote on Facebook when uploading the video.
Meanwhile, Martinez’s friends seemed to recall his father being killed by this same agency years earlier, which lead to an active lawsuit against them from his son, who is now dead.
The conversation takes places in the Facebook screenshots below. We will seek more details about that today.
The press conference where Indian River Sheriff Deryl Loar goes into detail about the ride in the van.
Raw footage of his arrival at the jail: