Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, shown in a Facebook photo speaking at a conference. (Special Photo)
BUFORD — Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, an autism researcher hailed as a hero by some, dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theorist by others, is believed to have committed suicide following a visit to his Buford office by federal agents, authorities confirmed Thursday.
Multiple law enforcement officials said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration searched Bradstreet Wellness Center last week. On Monday, plastic sheets covered the windows of the two suites the office takes up in a complex off Commerce Drive, and the doors were locked.
Employees who answered the door said they couldn’t give any information, that it was too soon to speculate on how he died. By Wednesday night, some of Bradstreet’s supporters were speculating that his death wasn’t a suicide, but a conspiracy.
The Rutherford County, N.C. Sheriff’s Office says the doctor, 61, of Braselton, was found dead by a fisherman in the Rocky Broad River on Friday afternoon, not far from the lake Bradstreet and his wife often visited on vacation.
“Mr. Bradstreet had a gunshot wound to the chest, which appears to be self inflicted,” a statement from the office said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
The FDA has yet to reveal why agents searched the office of the doctor, reportedly a former pastor who has been controversial for well over a decade. Robert Hiser, an assistant special agent in charge with the federal agency’s criminal investigations division, referred questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, which couldn’t immediately be reached Thursday.
The Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency aided the FDA with the raid, but director Rick Allen said Thursday he wasn’t immediately able to give information on the purpose of the search.
Bradstreet has been criticized for using methods of treating autism that were dismissed by mainstream medical professionals. He has also been blasted for reportedly treating patients for “mercury toxicity,” based on the belief that an ingredient in a childhood vaccination caused autism, a theory which the leading voices in medicine say is inaccurate.
As news of his death spread, many of his supporters began posting messages online, saying that he had saved their children’s lives, that he was champion for the movement to cure autism. They posted story after story in which his therapies and drugs were successful.
Others, including a man who said he was his brother, called him a martyr for autism and insinuated that the truth about his death wasn’t yet known. The man, Thomas Bradstreet, is shown as the creator an online fundraising page, asking for $25,000 from supporters for “Finding out the TRUTH.”
More than $5,000 had been donated by shortly after noon Thursday.
Jamie Keever, the investigator from the sheriff’s office on the case, said he was aware of the theories.
“I’ve talked to some of those people today,” he said Thursday. “I don’t know what to say. They have a right to their opinion.”
Efforts to reach the Bradstreet family were not successful this week.
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