69ºF

Veterans, civil rights groups demand investigation of Brevard inmate's death

Group calls for external investigation, release of jail video

ROCKLEDGE, Fla. – Community leaders are demanding further investigation, following the report that a top-ranking Florida medical examiner called into question how Gregory Lloyd Edwards, a 38-year-old combat veteran, died after a fight with corrections deputies at the Brevard County Jail.

News 6 partner Florida Today reports Dr. Stephen J. Nelson — the chief medical examiner for Florida's 10th Medical Examiner's District and the chair of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Medical Examiners Commission — said his review of the autopsy report suggests that Edwards' death was likely a homicide and not an accident as the Brevard medical examiner ruled earlier this year. He also said that the Brevard medical examiner failed to determine what exactly killed Edwards.

Edwards died on Dec. 10, 2018, a day after being rushed to the hospital from the jail where an altercation with a corrections officer during the booking process escalated to involve as many as seven other deputies who beat, pepper-sprayed, used a taser and cuffed Edwards before securing him in a restraint chair with a spit hood over his head.

A Brevard County Sheriff's Office employee told News 6 that confidentiality laws prevent the agency from releasing video from the jail.

On Tuesday, friends of Edwards, Cocoa city leaders, Central Brevard NAACP representatives, veterans and community advocates called on the Brevard County Sheriff's Office to release video of the jail altercation, along with a reevaluation of the autopsy report and an external investigation by the FDLE or FBI.

"I have worked many cases where people die in police custody or jail," Randy Foster, a retired supervisory deputy U.S. marshal and member of the Air National Guard military police. "I am calling on the Brevard County Sheriff's Office to release the video of the cellblock where Mr. Edwards was kept, Taser and use of force reports and to have an outside investigation by the FDLE or FBI. Mr. Edwards' civil rights may have been violated."

The group also called on the American Medical Association to not accept the term "excited delirium"  as a cause of death.

In Edwards' autopsy report, Brevard's medical examiner, Dr. Sajid Qaiser, concluded that Edwards died of "excited delirium and complications" due to "hyperactive and violent state with subsequent restraint" and ruled the manner of death an accident.

Excited delirium is a rare and controversial condition that is often linked to violence involving law enforcement officers.

Florida Today reports critics have expressed concern that the term "excited delirium" appears almost exclusively on medical reports for deaths in custody or that otherwise involve law enforcement.

Check back for updates on this developing story.