A medical examiner ruled the death of a Navy SEAL trainee a homicide, saying his instructor repeatedly dunked him during a pool exercise while the 21-year-old was struggling, the AP reports. The homicide ruling on the May 6 drowning of James Lovelace raises questions about the safety of the grueling training that produces the US military's most elite warfighter. It also raises questions about where the line is drawn between what is considered to be rigorous training designed to weed out the weakest and what is abuse that leads to a homicide. Lovelace was in his first week of training in Coronado, near San Diego. An autopsy found he drowned. The report noted he also had a heart abnormality but said the problem was only a contributing factor.
The homicide ruling does not necessarily mean a crime occurred, and the instructor has not been charged. The Navy is investigating and has assigned the instructor to administrative duties. Lovelace showed signs he was having difficulty treading water in fatigues, boots, and a dive mask filled with water. While struggling, he was seen on surveillance video being dunked at least twice by an instructor, the report said. He also slipped underwater several times as the instructor followed him around, continually splashing him for about five minutes, the report said. Multiple people stated that his face was purple and his lips were blue, according to the report. One individual was even considering calling a "time-out" to stop the exercise, the report said. Shortly after being pulled from the pool, Lovelace lost consciousness and was taken to a civilian hospital, where he died. (Read more Navy SEALs stories.)