Kin of man killed by deputies in E.R. disputes aspects of police report


Arlene Anderson, 89, grandmother of 29-year-old Zachary Anderson who was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies while awaiting treatment for a mental health breakdown in the emergency room at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, wants the chance to correct some details in police reports of the shooting.

For starters, she said, the reports that Zachary Anderson had attempted to hang himself before he was taken to the hospital in March 2022 are simply not true. He was despondent and needed protection from potentially harming himself, she said. He had self-inflicted cuts on his arms and legs, and an online psychiatrist determined that Anderson should be hospitalized under the Baker Act – a Florida law which allows a person to be held for mental health assessment for up to 72 hours if they present a danger to themselves or others.

So his aunt, Ellen Fulks, drove Anderson to the hospital. After her nephew had his lacerations bandaged and received something for pain, she went home to get some sleep, returning the next morning. At about 3 p.m. on the 26th, Anderson was transported to Neuro Psychiatric Addiction Clinic in Port St. Lucie.

An hour later, it was determined that he could not stay there as that facility does not accept Baker-acted patients. So Anderson was transported back to Cleveland Clinic and readmitted to the at-capacity Emergency Department at around 7 p.m.

Anderson was placed on a gurney and left unattended in a hallway, according to multiple witnesses. Fulks was not allowed in. After speaking with a social worker, she went home.

What happened next is unclear. Investigators who viewed the hospital’s security video say Anderson got up from the gurney and obtained a pair of scissors from a nurse – but his grandmother said the hospital refuses to let the family watch that video.

Video from one Indian River Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s body-worn camera shows Anderson heading for an exit and, after deputies shout at him to stop, he turns toward the officers with the scissors in his raised hand. Seconds later, two deputies fired on him.

In addition to holding the hospital accountable for his death, Arlene Anderson, who raised Zachary from a baby, wants people to know the kind of man he was – to know what she and the world lost. Zachary could read by the time he was 3 years old, she said, so he was placed in a gifted program and introduced to computers in first grade.

Anderson earned a spot in Sebastian River Middle School’s Pre-International Baccalaureate program, then he graduated from Indian River State College with both his high school diploma and an Associates Degree.

After studying software engineering at Florida Atlantic University, Anderson landed a coveted internship at the University of California Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory research center.

“Zach’s interests in solving problems were only overshadowed by his funny, engaging personality which made everyone around him even happier,” said Peter Ercius, one of Anderson’s mentors at Berkeley.

Romina Gotsmann, a fellow software engineer at the Berkeley National Laboratory, met Anderson at Sebastian Middle School. “He was one of the smartest kids in our cohort,” she said. “We were in the same math class and we became friends almost immediately. He was very open and kind with people, able to converse with kids his age as well as adults.”

Anderson rose quickly through the ranks of several high-tech companies, landing at BankRate financial services firm in Palm Beach County. While helping friends start small businesses, Anderson got certified to teach disabled children and mentored an autistic boy for several years.

A young man who set a goal of retiring at 40, Anderson moved back to Sebastian in 2022 to take care of his grandmother. “He was just starting out in life. I’m broken over this,” Fulks said.

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