The U.S. Army is facing a $25 million dollar malpractice claim from the family of U.S. Army Sergeant Elder Fernandes, of Brockton, who committed suicide in 2020.
Only a few months before his death, Fernandes had reported a male superior for something he called inappropriate. His family claims that led to harassment.
Fernandes’ body was found on August 25, 2020, several days after being released from the Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood.
The claim was first reported by The Boston Globe. The family’s attorney confirmed the claim to Boston 25 on Sunday night and shared its claim letter.
The claim alleges that Fernandes would be alive today if the military medical center hadn’t discharged him without a treatment plan or supervision just days after he was admitted with suicidal thoughts.
“they failed him miserably and they failed us as a family as well,” Isabel Fernandes told Boston 25. ““He gets discharged technically to the street.. on his own, and you don’t do that to someone who is suicidal.”
In its “formal notice of medical malpractice claim” Fernandes’ family says he sought help because of the harassment he had been subjected to by his fellow soldiers after he had reported a sexual harassment incident had become intolerable.
“Instead of helping him, Darnall released him on August 17, 2020, with no meaningful plan for his support and he was left on a street in Killeen, Texas to fend for himself. As a result, Sgt. Fernandes died in despair, alone, and unsupported by the United States Army that he was serving. When he did not show up for duty the day after his release, no search was initiated and Darnall did little or nothing to search for him. It was not until his mother arrived in Texas and demanded action that a search was commenced. His body was found in such a horrible state that an open casket funeral was not possible.”
“They absolutely ignored him. Hhe was just left to fend for himself on the sidewalk. My heart breaks every time I think of what his state of mind must have been,” said the family’s attorney Leonard Kesten. “He told them he could not tolerate the army anymore if he was sent back to his unit he would kill himself. They told him he couldn’t leave the army.”
“He had always voiced a passion to serve his country and follow in his father’s footsteps. His family supported and encouraged his service. They expected that the Army would take care of their son, never imagining that it would end in his death by suicide caused by the actions of his fellow soldiers and the negligence of the health care provided by the Army.” said the family in its letter.
“Sergeant Fernandes was sexually assaulted shortly after his arrival at Fort Hood, forever changing his outlook on the military, and his mental health. After only six months of being stationed at Fort Hood, on August 11, 2020, Fernandes became actively suicidal and was taken to Darnall by his wife’s brother and best friend, as part of a concerted effort by his closest friends and family to ensure his safety and to protect him from any self-harm,” according to the letter.
“Unfortunately, Darnall failed to adequately follow-through with its plan to safely separate Fernandes from the situation that was causing his suicidal ideation and suicidality, despite him reporting as follows: “I would have to kill myself if I have to go back to work.” said the family in its letter.
“It is with great sadness that we submit this demand. There is nothing that can bring Elder back to his loved ones. The hole that exists for all those that knew and loved him will always be there. We hope that Sergeant Fernandes’ death will not be in vain and that no other soldier will suffer as he did. The United States owes this much to his memory. This great country can and will do better,” said the family.
In a statement shared with Boston 25, US Army spokesman Sergeant First Class Anthony Hewitt called every suicide “one tragedy too many.”
“Every single suicide is one tragedy too many. We remain saddened by the loss of Sgt. Elder Fernandes and for his family,” Hewitt said. “The statute passed by Congress allows the filing of an administrative claim by the authorized representative of the deceased. The claim is being investigated by the U.S. Army Claims Service, but as a matter of policy, the Army does not disclose the particulars of ongoing claims investigations.”
“We dont want any other families to go through what we went through,” said Isabel Fernandes.
Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.