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Sheriff Ivey makes ‘uncomfortable’ surprise visit to the widow of Gregory Edwards

Community calls for release of jail video

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Flanked by half a dozen deputies, Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey paid an unannounced night time visit to the Grant-Valkaria home of the widow of Gregory Edwards who is demanding the release of a jail video showing a confrontation leading to her husband's death.

After deputies called Kathleen Edwards to step outside for a welfare check, she said Ivey walked out of the dark, “grabbed” and hugged Edwards, whom he had not met until that moment, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

Then the sheriff invited her along with one other person to see the video of the fight between corrections deputies and her husband in the Brevard jail that ended with Gregory Edwards being tased, pepper sprayed, strapped in a restraint chair. He stopped breathing shortly after and died the next day. The state attorney found no wrongdoing in the case after the sheriff’s office conducted its own investigation.

The sheriff has so far made no comment on the unusual visit.

Brevard County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bert Gamin, who drew national media attention this week for a Facebook post encouraging officers involved with violent incidents against protesters in Buffalo and Atlanta to come to Florida, has resigned from the agency. The announcement was made by Sheriff Wayne Ivey at a Friday morning press conference.  (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)
Brevard County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bert Gamin, who drew national media attention this week for a Facebook post encouraging officers involved with violent incidents against protesters in Buffalo and Atlanta to come to Florida, has resigned from the agency. The announcement was made by Sheriff Wayne Ivey at a Friday morning press conference. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)

“Out of respect for Mrs. Edwards’ privacy, the Sheriff’s Office will not be commenting on the nature or purpose of tonight’s service call at her residence," Tod Goodyear, spokesman for the sheriff’s office said while confirming deputies recorded the event for an unknown reason.

Edwards said she would talk with her advisors about her next move.

The surprise visit left Kathleen Edwards, a combat veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder, rattled emotionally, and describing it as "uncomfortable," "intimidating," and "shocking." She said the pretext of the visit according to the deputies is that they had received a call suggesting that she was unwell.

Edwards said she was summoned outside by deputies who asked her if she was willing to meet the sheriff. Edwards, who has been calling for an independent investigation and to see the video of her husband's confrontation at the jail, told them, "no."

“But he came anyway. I was so scared for my life, there were six cop cars parked outside of my house, then they called me on my cellphone telling me to come outside,” said Edwards, a single mother who was home with her sister when they noticed the patrol cars, including some that were hidden.

[READ: West Melbourne officer receives threats after edited arrest video goes viral, memo says | Defense seeks release of jail video involving Gregory Edwards and corrections deputies]

"He hugged me and recorded it. This shouldn't be happening. For them to just come to my house like this. It's disrespectful. I'm a veteran, I'm just thankful to God I was able to hold it together. I just want to be a mom to my babies and to be safe," she said before breaking down in tears.

Several neighbors and veterans responded to her home after she called for help before going out to see the deputies.

"If my sister wasn't here, what would have happened to me and my kids? I didn't know what to do. I tried calling my lawyer, I called Alton Edmond," she said, referring to the lawyer and community activist challenging Ivey for the sheriff's job in November.

Edwards said the surprise meeting left her feeling uncomfortable. She questioned why the sheriff didn’t call her attorney to schedule a meeting. She said she immediately thought of her children, not knowing what was going happening to her when she stepped outside and saw all the deputies there.

"For me to see those male deputies in front of my house, it's like no one is taking in consideration the mental health aspect of all this. My husband was an army medic, devoted to other veterans. We thought this was a safe place for us," she said before dropping her head down in tears.

Margarita Bonilla (left), the mother-in-law of Gregory Edwards, holds a sign at a demonstration in Melbourne on Thursday night. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)
Margarita Bonilla (left), the mother-in-law of Gregory Edwards, holds a sign at a demonstration in Melbourne on Thursday night. (Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY)

“I wanted them to leave so I just went out. I don’t feel safe in my own home,” she said, sitting in her living room in front of several portraits of her husband along with the American flag she was presented at his funeral.

The nighttime visit comes after a rough political weeks for the two-term sheriff. Last week, more than 3,000 to 4,000 people gathered peacefully in Cocoa to demand police reform while taking up the cause of Gregory Lloyd Edwards. Ivey did not attend. Ivey had also summoned several ministers in the black community to explain why he would not release the video of the confrontation, however, the leaders backed the release.

[RELATED: Corrections officers cleared of wrongdoing in Brevard inmate’s death | Medical examiner doubts veteran’s death in Brevard jail was an accident]

Then on Tuesday, the unopposed sheriff found himself with a Democratic challenger, attorney Alton Edmond, one of the Cocoa organizers and vocal proponent of releasing the jail video. As pressure also mounted in the media, Ivey announced on Saturday that he would ask FDLE to review his agency’s own case. He maintained that he would not release the video because Florida statutes exempt any records that showed security details at the county jail, although other videos exist of the facility, including the booking area.

Edmond questioned Ivey's handling of the situation. “I am shocked and sorely disappointed...He showed a clear and utter disregard for and insensitivity toward Mrs. Edwards’ compromised state at the sight of the deputies’ unexpected presence," Edmond said in a statement sent to FLORIDA TODAY.

The incident at Edwards home began at about 7:16 p.m. Sunday. Kathleen Edwards was home with her sister.

A still image from surveillance video of Gregory Lloyd Edwards as he is transported in the back of a police car (Photo: West Melbourne Police Department)
A still image from surveillance video of Gregory Lloyd Edwards as he is transported in the back of a police car (Photo: West Melbourne Police Department)

A review of unverified audio involving the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office shows that deputies — at least six patrol cars — went to Edwards’ home, according to Edwards in response to a request for a check on her wellbeing. Edwards, who admits to struggling emotionally at times in wake of her husband’s death, said she had expressed depressive thoughts two days prior on a private veterans’ social media page called Formation 22.

Gabby Bonilla, Edwards' sister called the unannounced visit "disrespectful."

[MORE COVERAGE: Brevard inmate dies after apparent medical episode during booking | Sheriff Ivey talks transparency on Edwards case but actions tell another story]

"I asked the deputies why there were so many of them? They said they were here to do a wellbeing check. They said they actually needed to talk to my sister. I was like, can the rest of you leave?"

Ivey told Edwards that he could show her the video and lay out the case for her and one other person.

The deputies, however, lingered after Ivey’s visit, then left as several men and neighbors turned up at the home to provide her support. One veteran, who did not know Edwards, noted that there were several deputies in the area.

"I was terrified," she said.

“Because the last time I dealt with police officers, my husband didn’t come home.”