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An Orange City man died April 5 after fighting with some teens at Mill Lake Park, but police said the fight did not contribute to his death.

The Orange City Police Department is investigating the death of Johnnie Earl Beveritt, 43, but not as a suspicious or criminal matter, according to Orange City Police Department spokesman Lt. Jason Sampell.

Beveritt died at Florida Hospital Fish Memorial nearly seven hours after the fight was reported, according to the Police Department’s incident report and the 911 dispatch record.

Orange City Police Department spokesman Lt. Jason Sampsell said, despite conflicting witness reports, police are certain Beveritt was not seriously injured in the fight.

“We know what the injuries were,” Sampsell said. He noted that, although medical reports are not final, Beveritt was treated at the hospital for a cardiac condition, not fight injuries.

As for witnesses who described Beveritt as bloody and beaten, Sampsell said it is not unusual for witness accounts to vary in criminal cases.

Preliminarily, Sampsell said, police think Beveritt’s death may be related to cocaine use.  

Over the years, Beveritt, who is black, had had numerous run-ins with the law, according to the Volusia County Clerk of Court website and other public records.

On April 5, police got involved with Beveritt shortly after 4 p.m. They had been called to Beveritt’s neighborhood by Danielle Grisham, who along with her mother, Lori Jones, drove by Mill Lake Park as the fight was in progress.

Jones told police she had seen a black man fighting with two white men.

Dispatch records also show other residents in the area called in reports of hearing cries for help coming from the park. 

Nicholas Martz, 18, and a juvenile whose identity is not being released by authorities, in written statements to police, reported they had invited Beveritt to “smoke” with them, and when Martz turned his back, Beveritt grabbed him around the neck and tried to take his wallet.

Martz, who also lives nearby, according to his witness statement told police he began fighting for his wallet, and for his life. 

“I was holding on to my wallet screaming for help and when cars started passing and I realized no one was gonna help, I started fighting back and ended up on top of him,” he wrote in a statement to police. “I think I punched him five times.” 

Martz reported that throughout the fight, Beveritt had a grip on the wallet in Martz’s pocket.

Orange City police Officer Stephen Nesbitt responded to the 911 call. In the 300 block of South Orange Avenue, he was flagged down by Vernon Stafford, who lives next door to Beveritt.

South Orange Avenue runs along the east side of Mill Lake Park.

When Office Nesbitt arrived, Beveritt was lying on the ground near Stafford’s truck, Nesbitt said in his report. Stafford told Nesbitt he had seen Beveritt “in an altercation with two ‘skinny white kids’ in the roadway in front of his house,” according to the incident report. 

Stafford said the two young men got into a car and left the park, while Beveritt stumbled to Stafford’s yard and collapsed, according to the report. 

“I observed Beveritt laying on the ground, and minor blood in his mouth from a possible busted lip,” Nesbitt wrote in his report. 

Beveritt twice refused medical treatment and told Nesbitt only that he had fallen down, according to the report, which states Beveritt walked next door to his home and went inside.

Officer Nesbitt was outside the Beveritt home, filling out paperwork, he said in his report, when Beveritt’s cousin Felicia Williams summoned him.

She told the officer, according to the report, that Beveritt had asked for help getting in the shower because he was hot.

In her statement to police, Williams wrote that Beveritt had repeatedly said, “They gave me something.” She said he would not say who or what.

Nesbitt entered the home to find Beveritt flailing his arms and legs, and jerking his head. 

“Beveritt’s behavior was indicative of possible narcotics use, and not the same mannerism I observed from him earlier,” Nesbitt wrote in his report.  

Orange City Fire Department personnel and an ambulance arrived, and Beveritt was transported to the hospital, according to the dispatch record.

Nesbitt was notified that while en route, at just before 5 p.m., paramedics in the ambulance had begun performing CPR on Beveritt. When they arrived at the hospital, the staff was able to regain Beveritt’s pulse, according to the report.

Initially listed in critical condition, Beveritt died at 10:03 p.m., according to hospital staff, Nesbitt reported.

The official word about why he died will be a long time coming.

“The investigation is still open and active,” Sampsell said. “We’re waiting for toxicology, and it won’t be concluded until we receive everything.”

— Erika Webb, erika@beacononlinenews.com


Troubled life

Johnnie Earl Beveritt had a lengthy arrest record, with dozens of felony charges, although in some cases the charges were reduced to misdemeanors or ultimately dropped.

These are a few recent examples from more than 50 civil, misdemeanor and felony cases involving Beveritt that are listed on the Volusia County Clerk of Court and Florida Department of Corrections websites:

In 2017, Beveritt was convicted of charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, battery on a law-enforcement officer and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. He was sent to prison and served less than a year. He was due to be released from community supervision (a type of probation) April 25.

In 2016, Beveritt was arrested for battery on a law-enforcement officer and two counts of possession of a schedule IV controlled substance (in this case, Ativan and Xanax), all third-degree felonies. He pleaded no contest to the charges and was found guilty. He was sentenced to spend a year and a day in prison, but received credit for 238 days served.

In 2014, Beveritt was arrested for aggravated battery on a pregnant person and possession of drug paraphernalia, although prosecutors did not move forward with the battery charge. He was found guilty of the paraphernalia charge and was sentenced to 36 days in jail, but received credit for 36 days served. 

Earlier in 2014, he was charged in another case with felony possession of a schedule III substance, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia and resisting an officer without violence. He pleaded no contest, was found guilty, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with credit for 54 days served. 

His record contains many other charges related to domestic violence, drug possession and battery.

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