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Fort Hood Soldier Laid To Rest In Brockton As Community Raises Questions About His Death

About 20 men from the Patriot Guard Riders stood vigil outside the funeral of Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes in Brockton Saturday morning. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)
About 20 men from the Patriot Guard Riders stood vigil outside the funeral of Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes in Brockton Saturday morning. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)

About 20 men stood outside Saint Edith Stein Parish in Brockton on Saturday, holding American flags. They were Patriot Guard Riders, bikers who stand vigil outside funerals for first responders and military personnel.

One hundred people had their temperatures checked before they were allowed inside the church to pay their respects to Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes, who was found hanging from a tree in Texas. Attendance was capped at 100 people, and pews were cordoned off with caution tape for social distancing.

Born in Cape Verde and raised in Brockton, 23-year-old Fernandes went missing last month after a hospitalization for unspecified reasons. In May, Fernandes reported that he'd been sexually assaulted. He was placed into another Army unit, and then the Army closed its investigation. No one was held responsible. Police in Temple, Texas — where Fernandes was found hanging from a tree — say they don't suspect foul play.

But the Fernandes family, people who knew him, and elected officials don't buy the Army's investigation or the police's findings. They're calling for an independent investigation.

At the funeral, only the pastor and elected officials spoke. They all suggested that while today Fernandes is laid to rest, there would be no rest for the living looking for the truth.

"There are way too many questions unanswered and we will continue to seek those answers," said city councilor Moises Rodrigues. "Because [Fernandes] deserved a lot more than he got out of this life."

Brockton Mayor Robert Sullivan also believes too many are left without answers, and he's hoping a federal investigation will yield clarity.

"Elder is in now in paradise, in heaven surrounded by angels," he said. "But now on Earth, there's pain, there's sorrow ... you deserve to know why this happened, so it never happens to any family again."

Fernandes is one of a few soldiers from Fort Hood who died while stationed at the Army base this year. The commander of the base was recently removed and replaced.

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Quincy Walters Producer, WBUR Podcasts
Quincy Walters was a producer for WBUR Podcasts.

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