Sailor’s drowning death during Navy SEAL training ruled a homicide

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NORFOLK, Va. – James Derek Lovelace’s death following a difficult Navy training drill appeared to be a tragic accident.

However, new details following an investigation have caused the San Diego medical examiner to rule his death as a homicide.

The 21-year-old had just joined the Navy and was wrapping up the last day of his first week of SEAL training.

The training exercise Lovelace was attempting is part of what’s called ‘drown proofing,’ where participants wear a camouflage utility uniform and diving masks and then have to tread water and swim, Navy spokesman Lt. Trevor Davids explains.

The course is known for being “legendarily difficult.”

Navy instructors say when they noticed Lovelace struggling, they took him out of the pool.

But the findings of an investigation revealed that didn’t happen.

Instead, sources told NBC News that his death was caused by an instructor going too far.

The training exercise was captured on video and was viewed by the medical examiner.

The medical examiner’s report says “an instructor in the water approaches the decedent and apparently dunks the decedent underwater. Over the course of the next approximately five minutes, the instructor follows the decedent around the pool, continually splashing him with water. The decedent is also splashed by other instructors in the water. Throughout the time period, the decedent is observed to go under the water multiple times.”

NBC News reports that at one point, another student tried to help keep Lovelace’s head above water.

“The instructor appears to again dunk the decedent and continues to follow him around the water. The instructor also appears to pull the decedent partially up and out of the water and then push him back. Eventually, the decedent is assisted to the side of the pool where he is pulled from the water,” the report reads.

The medical examiner ruled Lovelace’s death a homicide, adding that “it is our opinion that the actions, and inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death.”

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