Video shows fatal beating
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 31, 2005 at 10:52 p.m.
A surveillance video camera, recording the last moments of a 23-year-old University of Florida student's life, showed him cornered by his attackers outside the CSX building on Water Street in Jacksonville, according to an arrest report.
The video, which has not been made public but is said to be soundless and last less than a minute, depicts UF senior Thomas Oliver Brown unable to escape from five men late Saturday after the Florida-Georgia football game. He was beaten unconscious by two while the other three prevented him from getting away, an arrest report states. Called to the area at about 10:40 p.m., rescuers arrived and found Brown had no pulse or heart beat.
And, although investigators have five people in custody accused of Brown's murder, they did not give a motive Monday for why he was fatally beaten.
The reason for the attack is the question everyone wants answered, said Assistant State Attorney Angela Corey with the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville. But, she said, so far there is no obvious motive for his death.
"It was not about football. It was not about race or sex. It was not about prior knowledge of each other," she said. "Right now we have no concrete motive as far as what one would expect in a case."
At this point in the investigation, Corey said it appeared Brown and the five men - Jeremy Alan Lane, 21; Jeffery Richard Groncziak, 19; Casey Michael Schuurman, 19; Mark Tyler Foss, 18; and Alex Samuel Canzano, 21 - had only met immediately prior to the attack.
"Apparently it was no motive," said the college student's father, Thomas J. Brown of Merritt Island.
"They singled him out for some reason," he said.
University officials have said the five suspects have no connection to either UF or the University of Georgia. Arrest records describe them as an auto mechanic, a restaurant cook, a private contractor and two who are unemployed. Three had last attended Fletcher High School in Duval County.
"The thing about it is, my son, he wouldn't hurt anybody," Thomas J. Brown said.
Friends in Gainesville said the Beta Theta Pi fraternity member went to every game he could.
The past weekend was no different when fraternity brothers said Brown watched the Gators take on the Bulldogs. Afterward, they split up, only to learn Sunday that Brown had been killed.
This is the second death in two years involving a UF student attending the Florida-Georgia weekend in Jacksonville.
Last year, UF sophomore David Robert Ferguson, 19, disappeared after leaving friends at the Landing after the Oct. 29 Georgia-Florida game. Days later detectives found his body on the side of a parking garage where he had parked his car. UF officials have said his death was alcohol-related.
Corey could not say, based on the video, what role if any alcohol played in the attack on Brown.
"Alcohol may be a factor but it certainly isn't the motive or the cause," she said.
Susie Wiles, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville mayor's office, said that office is treating this incident as a law enforcement matter and waiting for a final report from investigators.
"Certainly their suspicion is that alcohol played a role," she said.
With the game nicknamed the biggest cocktail party in the world, Wiles said, "There's no question that the informal marketing, certainly nothing affiliated with the teams, is not helpful.
"Obviously, any time there are large numbers of individuals and alcohol is involved, unfortunately we can expect some issues. The death of this young man was a tragedy. It certainly is a blemish on the record of this game," Wiles said.
However, she also said that according to the Sheriff's Office, there were fewer arrests and incidents relating to drinking this year than in past years.
The five men arrested in Brown's death, four from Jacksonville and the fifth from Ponte Vedra Beach, are being held at the Duval County jail without bond, Corey said. The State Attorney's Office for the 4th Judicial Circuit has not determined what degree of murder charge they might face.
A service for Brown will be held at the Merritt Island Presbyterian Church, 600 S. Tropical Trail, in Brevard County at 2 p.m. Thursday, according to a family friend. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Junior League of Central & North Brevard to the Cygnet House Project.
Lise Fisher can be reached at 374-5092 or fisherl@ gvillesun.com.
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