On Feb. 3, 2018, Baker County, Fla., sheriff’s deputies arrived at a residence hidden off Southern States Nursery Road outside Macclenny, Fla., to respond to a call about a shooting. Upon their arrival, officers found the body of 31-year-old Dominic Jerome “D.J.” Broadus II on the ground behind the home. According to reports by the law enforcement agencies and the medical examiner, Broadus had been shot three times, at close range, in his head.
Two weeks later, it still seems that no one has any answers.
We know that Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden has turned over the case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, citing the need for transparency in the investigation. The FDLE was called in because relatives and community activists saw a potential conflict of interest in the Baker County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation, for a very interesting reason.
At the scene, deputies found Gardner Kent Fraser. According to the police report, the 29-year-old Fraser was escorted to the sheriff’s office “at the request of on-scene detectives for further investigation.” Fraser was not arrested and was eventually released.
Fraser is the son of former Jacksonville, Fla., Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan T. Fraser. Ryan Fraser was fired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department in 2009 for shooting an unarmed black man, Jerrick Hall. At the time, Jacksonville’s sheriff said that Ryan Fraser was terminated because Hall did not pose a threat to Fraser when the deputy shot the 20-year-old Hall in 2008.
If any of this seems suspicious, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of this confounding case. Aside from the fact that, according to law enforcement reports, Broadus was found dead at the home of a well-connected family, there’s the fact that Broadus’ cellphone was never found. And there’s one more interesting tidbit:
There was at least one more person at the scene.
No one in the public knows who this mysterious “other person” is. The Baker County Sheriff’s Department’s initial report redacts the identity of the individual. Authorities also have redacted on the police report the parts of the supplemental narratives from three other assisting officers at the scene, essentially hiding from the public the person’s name and information about what they found.
Remember that part about “one more interesting tidbit” from earlier? That was a red herring. Because there is one other thing you should know about this case:
Gardner Fraser is not just the son of “fired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Deputy” Ryan T. Fraser. After Ryan Fraser lost his job in Jacksonville, he was somehow able to get another job in law enforcement. Luckily, it was in his hometown of Macclenny ...
At the Baker County Sheriff’s Department.
To be fair, Ryan T. Fraser no longer works in Macclenny because he retired four months ago in October 2017.
Here’s what we know, according to law enforcement reports: Dominic Broadus was killed in an execution-style manner. Deputies responding to the call found at the scene of the crime the son of their former co-worker, along with another unnamed person whose identity they will not reveal. To date, no one has been arrested. In the intervening weeks, the family of the victim have been left in the dark, and the only answer they have received is, “We’re working on it. Just chill.”
Broadus’ father, Dominic Broadus Sr., said, “The evilness of this crime has caused heartbreak and horror to me and the rest of D.J.’s family, including his mother, his siblings and his son.”
The father added:
At this point we know little about the investigation of D.J.’s murder. Our hopes are that a competent and honest investigation will be conducted. We do know that the main suspect in the case, Gardner K. Fraser, is the son of a retired Baker County deputy sheriff. Understandably, the fact that our son was an outsider in Baker County and the suspect is a longtime, well-connected, Baker County resident, gives us concerns about the fairness of the process. As parents and citizens, we want and we demand a thorough, honest and unbiased investigation.
Activists and community organizations in Florida, including the Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter and Color of Change, are demanding transparency in the investigation. They say they believe that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Baker County Sheriff’s Department are covering up an execution to protect Gardner Fraser and the Fraser family.
In a statement to The Root, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said that it does not comment on active investigations, explaining, “Our top priority is to ensure the integrity of the investigation.” The FDLE also said: “Our role is to determine the facts of what happened, and we provide that information to prosecutors so they can make charging decisions. Once the investigation is no longer active, all information can be provided to the public.”
The Broadus family have united with local and national groups from around the country to demand justice and transparency. They will hold a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. at the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ in Macclenny to engage the community and law enforcement in their search for answers.
They have also set up an online presence on Facebook and Twitter under “Justice4DJBroadus” and ask that anyone with information contact Detective Hollycross at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at 904-360- 7100.
The Broadus family said, “Solving this crime and punishing the evildoers will not bring DJ back to us, and although our hearts will be forever broken by this tragic event, justice for my son and our family is demanded.”