Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Camp Pendleton sailor found dead on base

— The body of a 29-year-old sailor was found in a Camp Pendleton guard shack Tuesday, and a “person of interest” was taken into custody in connection with the suspected homicide, Navy officials said yesterday.

The body of Seaman August Provost of Houston, Texas, was discovered about 3:30 a.m. on the western edge of the base, said Doug Sayers, a spokesman for Navy Region Southwest.

An autopsy was completed yesterday, but authorities were waiting for results of toxicology tests to determine a cause of death.

A “person of interest” was being held in the Navy brig at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. No charges have been filed.

The death has local gay activists calling for a formal investigation into whether Provost was slain because of his sexual orientation.

“We're definitely monitoring this and trust and hope the military will investigate this in the professional way it should,” said Nicole Murray-Ramirez, chairman of San Diego's Human Rights Commission. Murray-Rameriz also has contacted Reps. Susan Davis and Bob Filner, asking that they make official inquiries to the military concerning an investigation.

The Navy would not comment on whether Provost's orientation had anything to do with the death.

“While 'Don't ask, Don't tell' is in place, anybody in the military who is a homosexual has no place to go to get assistance or counseling,” said Ben Gomez of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an advocacy group for gays in the military.

Provost's boyfriend, Kaether Cordero, said yesterday that Provost was openly gay but kept his private life quiet for the most part.

“People who he was friends with, I knew that they knew,” Cordero said from Houston. “He didn't care that they knew. He trusted them.”

Provost had recently complained to his family that someone was harassing and bothering him, and they advised him to tell his supervisor, said his sister, Akalia.

“He's the type that if someone comes at him, he walks away. He never stands and argues,” she said. “He didn't deserve anything but a good life.”

Family described Provost as a well-mannered, humble and goofy guy who strived to make sure his mother was well-taken care of. Provost was assigned to Assault Craft Unit 5 on the base.

He had completed three years of college before joining the Navy in March 2008 to help finance his education. He was studying to become an architectural engineer, his uncle said.

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