Family speaks out about Suffolk tapes

February 22, 2011 8:19:33 PM PST
A Long Island family is breaking its silence, and reacting to the story of the tapes.

What did officers really know about a man injured in their custody?

Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Sarah Wallace has obtained internal conversations of the Suffolk County Sheriff's deputies.

"We can't put him to rest. We can't until we have some justice. We can't close this," said Joy Scott, the victim's aunt.

For nearly five years, the Long Island family stayed silent, quietly fighting to uncover the truth about the death of a 20-year-old named Scott Eriksen. Now, his relatives believe they know how and why he died.

"My cousin died suffering where he shouldn't have to," said Phyllis Scott, the victim's cousin.

Gary Eriksen was with his brother in 2005 when Suffolk County deputies arrested the two for marijuana possession and took them to a holding cell in Central Islip.

"I get nightmares," Gary Eriksen said.

Gary is still an emotional wreck and is haunted by what he says he saw: a deputy named Eddie Simovich throwing Scott into the cell.

It was only recently that the family uncovered a tape of a phone call of Deputy Sergeant Jeffrey Noss describing Scott's fall to his supervisor.

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."

Gary says he pleaded for deputies to get Scott medical treatment.

"I was screaming for help, no one would help us. My brother was asking several times. They wouldn't help," Gary Eriksen said, "They told him to stop acting like a baby."

It wasn't until nearly two hours after he was arrested and brought into the facility that Scott was finally taken out by an ambulance.

Deputies later claimed Scott had grabbed a deputy's shirt and accidentally fallen to the floor didn't seem to have any problems and refused medical attention.

More than an hour and a half later, Sgt. Noss finally called for an ambulance.

This is what he said then: "Can you call the ambulance back and tell them to put a rush on it. He might be checking out. He took a really hard shot to the head," Noss said on the tape.

"They knew, they knew. There should have been no waiting. So why was that not done?" Scott said.

"He said several times, 'There's something not right, there's something not right'," Gary Eriksen said.

"And you knew it?" asked Sarah Wallace.

"He was on my lap, asking me to hold his ears," Gary Eriksen said.

Scott was declared brain dead at the hospital. Sergeant Noss didn't want to talk to Eyewitness News.

We obtained a highly critical report by the New York state Commission of Correction which said: "Having been involved in a use of force with head injury, Eriksen should have been examined by a physician without delay."

But no Deputies were ever disciplined by the Department. No deputies were ever indicted by the grand jury which never heard those tapes. The family's attorney has filed a federal lawsuit.

"I think the evidence is consistent with a cover-up without question," said Anthony Grandinette, the family's attorney.

"Something has to change so that these things won't happen again," Scott said.

"They weren't looking out for Scott, they were looking out for the sheriff's department," said Jane Stango, the victim's sister.

The family's lawsuit is expected to go to trial in a few months.

Those involved in the case referred us to the Suffolk County Attorney who issued a statement denying the allegations and saying they are vigorously defending the lawsuit.

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