BROCKTON (CBS) – The grief is overwhelming for the family of Army Sgt. Elder Fernandes. On Friday night, they honored his memory and demanded answers.

Sadness was mixed with anger on the steps of Brockton City Hall. Dozens coming together for an emotional candle light vigil to pay respects to the 23-year-old Fort Hood soldier found dead in Texas this week.

“It’s not supposed to be this way,” said Brockton City Councilor Moises Rodrigues. “We’re not supposed to lose soldiers in our own homeland. There’s something ill going on at Fort Hood.”

Sgt. Elder Fernandes (Image credit US Army)

Investigators do not suspect foul play, but the family says Sgt. Fernandes had earlier reported being sexually assaulted.

“We are here demanding justice for Elder,” family member John Sequeira said. “We know he went there for a good cause, we know he went to serve the country and he’s not with us anymore for a bad reason for something that shouldn’t happen.”

They’re demanding a congressional investigation after a string of deaths at Fort Hood and that might be already happening.

Congressman Stephen Lynch is just back from the base. “We demanded documents. We demanded medical records that had previously been denied to the family,” Lynch said at the vigil. “But most of all we were there to demand respect.”

Earlier Friday, Congressman Lynch told WBZ that a “top to bottom review” is needed at the Texas Army base.

Vigil for Sgt. Elder Fernandes in Brockton (WBZ-TV)

“There’s a sickness at Fort Hood,” Lynch said. “We’ve had as many casualties at Fort Hood, 10 in the last year, as we have in some of our foreign deployments and that’s disgraceful. That’s on American soil. Those are our own sons and daughters in uniform so there’s real reason for concern here.”

In a letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General, the Massachusetts delegation demanded “a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death, including allegations of abusive sexual contact, bullying, and retaliation.”

There were no answers Friday night for the family but they did get something else, the community’s full support.


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