3rd Infantry Division deputy commander Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips released the following apologetic statement Wednesday evening, following media inquiries into how alleged rapist Pvt. Daniel Brazelton managed to escape military custody.
Brazelton, 20, of the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, was apprehended Feb. 18 by the Daytona Beach Police Department in Holly Hill, Fla., according to a news release from Fort Stewart public affairs. Brazelton is wanted for the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old Los Angeles County girl.
Brazelton’s escape Feb. 11 from a van on Airport Road prompted a nationwide manhunt. The soldier reportedly exited the van and ran to a treeline while he was being returned to the Liberty County jail following a medical appointment for an unnamed condition on Fort Stewart.
“As the acting senior commander at Fort Stewart, I apologize to the community and to the alleged victim for Pvt. Daniel Brazelton’s escape from military custody,” Phillips said in a news release. “All aspects of Pvt. Brazelton’s escape, including any potential assistance he may have received, will be thoroughly explored by a U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command independent investigation now underway. Because of that investigation, many details cannot be shared at this time. CID has been actively involved since this case began, immediately launching its investigation, together with local and federal agencies, to find and apprehend Pvt. Brazelton.
“Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield has a policy dictating how soldiers in custody are transported,” the general continued. “We are determining the quality of that policy’s implementation in this case. So far, we have identified some deficiencies, which we are correcting. We have clarified with local law enforcement agencies that all future prisoner transport requests will be coordinated through our law enforcement officials and will only involve military police in the actual transport. In the case of Pvt. Brazelton, he was incorrectly transported by soldiers from his unit without coordination through appropriate military police authorities.
“I reiterate how sorry we are to the community and the alleged victim who has suffered so much,” Phillips said. “We will do everything possible to prevent such avoidable incidents in the future.”
In an anonymous e-mail sent Wednesday to the Courier, a tipster claimed Brazelton was in the company of a soldier or ex-soldier. This information could not be confirmed.
“As for the status of a soldier (AWOL, deserter, active duty, etc.) CID would not be the appropriate agency to provide information on that question,” CID spokesman Chris Grey said in an e-mail Wednesday. “As for your remaining questions, we have an ongoing investigation and to protect the integrity of that investigation, we are not releasing any details of the case at this time.”
Sgt. Brian Hudson with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau said in a phone interview Wednesday he knew nothing about a second soldier.
Hudson said Brazelton still is being held at the Volusia County, Fla., jail awaiting extradition to California. The LA detective said LACSD officers will fly to Florida to accompany Brazelton back to California. Any questions about the soldier’s escape would have to be referred to the Army, he said.