The San Diego County medical examiner ruled the death of James Derek Lovelace, 21, during Navy SEAL training a homicide.
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Lovelace was participating in a training exercise May 6 in the pool area of the Naval Amphibious Base on Coronado when he was observed in distress in the water, the autopsy report, released Wednesday, states. During the exercise, an unnamed Navy instructor repeatedly dunked him underwater over the course of five minutes, the report says, something that SEAL instructors are not supposed to do. The report concluded that while the incident could be viewed as an accident, "actions, or inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death."
Only 25 percent of candidates make it through the grueling six-month SEAL course without dropping out, and Lovelace, of Crestview, Florida, was in his first week. The pool training is called "combat swimmer orientation," and the candidates must swim and tread water while wearing masks, boots, and fatigues. Lovelace previously had been treated for asthma and a heart abnormality, which the report says could have been a contributing factor in his death. While Lovelace is at least the fifth SEAL candidate to die during training in the last three decades, this is believed to be the first time a candidate's death has been ruled a homicide, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Navy is still investigating the incident and has not yet decided if charges will be filed. Catherine Garcia