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Death Of Navy SEAL Trainee Ruled Homicide

Photo credit: 10News

James Derek Lovelace is pictured in this undated photo.

Death Of Navy SEAL Trainee Ruled Homicide


Steve Walsh, KPBS reporter


The drowning death of a Navy SEAL trainee who was pulled from a pool during training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado has been ruled a homicide.

On May 6, Seaman James Derek Lovelace, 21, went into distress during a training exercising called "drown proofing," in which prospective SEALs tread water while in uniform and wearing a diving mask, the Navy said. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

The exercise is performed during the first week of training "to assess and develop students' competency, confidence and safety in the water," the Navy said.

However, an instructor dunked Lovelace despite that he was seen struggling, the autopsy report said.

"Instructors are reportedly advised to not dunk or pull students underwater," the report states.

Investigators listed Lovelace's cause of death as drowning and said he also suffered from asthma and an enlarged heart. The manner of his death was ruled a homicide.

"Although the manner of death could be considered by some as an accident, especially given that the decedent was in a rigorous training program that was meant to simulate an 'adverse' environment, it is our opinion that the actions, and inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death, and the manner of death is best classified as homicide," the report said.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone would face charges in Lovelace's death.

"It is important to understand that 'homicide' refers to 'death at the hands of another' and a homicide is not inherently a crime," Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice said in a statement to the Navy Times.

"The nomenclature of the autopsy report does not signal that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation into Seaman Lovelace's death has culminated, nor that conclusions have been reached regarding criminal culpability," Buice said. "The NCIS investigation is open and active and NCIS does not discuss the details of ongoing investigations."

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