BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – New video emerged Tuesday showing details of Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey’s unannounced Sunday night visit to the Grant-Valkaria home of the widow of U.S. Army veteran Gregory Edwards, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
The grainy cellphone footage, lasting about nine minutes, shows the sheriff approaching Kathleen Edwards outside her house, embracing her, talking calmly in almost a whisper, asking about her well-being and the status of her attorney, while offering her the opportunity to see the video of her husband’s fatal encounter with at least seven of his deputies in the Brevard County Jail on Dec. 9, 2018.
It was a critical moment in her 18-month-long struggle for an outside, independent investigation into the death of her husband, a former combat medic suffering badly from post-traumatic stress disorder and who was arrested for assault and died following a violent confrontation at the jail.
Ivey, who carried out the unconventional visit under the auspices of a well-being check, has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks from the media, activists and community leaders to release the video, which Ivey has exempted from public view for security reasons.
The day before the visit, Ivey had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state's investigative agency, to review his deputies own investigation last year of Gregory Edwards' death. That investigation, along with the determination by Brevard's medical examiner that Edwards' death was an accident, led the state attorney to clear corrections deputies of any wrongdoing in the case.
Kathleen Edwards, who nervously called several people to come to her aid when she learned deputies had flanked her home, appears in the video as shaken, but gracious and composed, during the surprise meeting she later described as “uncomfortable and unwanted.”
The sheriff and at least six patrol cars went to Edwards’ home about 7:15 p.m. Sunday, according to Edwards, after receiving a call saying that she had left messages on a Facebook post suggesting she wanted to hurt herself. Typically, well-being checks are conducted by deputies. In this case, Ivey told Edwards that he drove from Mims — some 60 miles away — when he learned about the call to make sure she was OK.
Edwards' sister, who was with Edwards and her two small children when Ivey and the deputies arrived, recorded the entire encounter on her cellphone.
"You OK?" the sheriff asked Edwards she stepped back from him following the hug.
“I’m a widow now, I lost my battle buddy,” Edwards replied, voice wavering. “There’s a lot of things I would have liked to have talked to you about.”
“Can I tell you why I couldn’t? Your attorneys told us not to have anything to do with you. They told us not to contact you, I couldn’t circumvent that,” Ivey explained in a soft, even tone.
“I would have been here the next day but I could not come here after your attorneys told us not to have anything to do with you. We even wanted to bring you a victim’s advocate ... and they wouldn’t let us do that. I know there’s been a lot of turmoil and everything else as a result of all this,” Ivey told her.
Ivey then told Edwards that he and his men had come because he was afraid for her. 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.
"Look, we got called here tonight because we were told you might be hurting yourself. I don't want that to happen," Ivey said to the widow.
"No one saved a combat medic but you want to save me?" Edwards responded incredulously.
“None of us wanted anything to happen to him (Gregory) either. None of us,” Ivey said.
Later, Edwards said it seemed as if the sheriff wanted to set a narrative and used the call as a pretext to turn up uninvited at her home. Several deputies stayed parked near her home for almost two hours after the sheriff's departure.
“If my sister wasn’t here, what would have happened to me and my kids? I didn’t know what to do,” Edwards said later.
But at the time she told him: "The only thing I wanted to do is see the tape. I have PTSD, I'm concerned about my health, how can a person die of excited delirium? I want to see it."
Ivey then asked Edwards to promise him that she wouldn't do anything to hurt herself. "Promise me that right now. Promise me that and I'll believe you," he said.
The sheriff then asked Edwards to call him Monday to arrange a private viewing of the jail video that, according to the sheriff's investigation, would show a fight between Edwards and as many as seven deputies that ended with him being punched, kneed, pepper-sprayed, tasered and strapped into a restraint chair with a spit hood over his head. Soon after, he stopped breathing. He died the next day at Rockledge Regional Medical Center.
"You bring one person tomorrow you are comfortable sitting and talking with ... whoever you are comfortable with. But I want this to be about you and what brings closure to this, I don't think it's just seeing the video, I think you have a deeper (purpose) than that," he tells her.
Edwards, however, stayed focused on talking about being sure combat veterans would be treated properly, an issue she has talked about since her husband's case.
"I want veterans to be safe. I'm a combat veteran and I served my country," she told the sheriff. "I'm still upset ... I still want answers," she said.
The sheriff then asked Edwards about her attorneys and who represented her legally, and handed her a card before leaving. Edwards retreated back to the house as neighbors, veterans and others converged on the home in response to her earlier calls for help. She then described being rattled and disturbed by the visit.
To the sheriff's supporters, the video portrays a caring and compassionate lawman. To his detractors, it shows a man who used a two-day-old social media post as a pretext to try to resolve the growing political problem of Gregory Edwards' death.
John Vernon Moore, a Melbourne-based wrongful death attorney who has handled similar in-custody death cases, says the meeting of the sheriff and the widow was “incredibly suspect.”
"This was entirely inappropriate. It's uncalled for. When the sheriff shows up at your house it raises questions. Why now? Is it because of the attention? It just seems like such a rash decision on his part," Moore said.
On Monday, Ivey, whose deputies also recorded the moment, released an audio recording to a television station of what was earlier described by his agency as a matter of "privacy" involving Edwards.
“Thank you. Thank you for finally meeting with me,” Edwards can be heard saying on the audio Ivey provided to FOX 35.
In the interview with the Orlando TV station, the sheriff said he believed Edwards' death was being used for political reasons.
“It’s been exploited for agendas, it’s been weaponized for political reasons, and she doesn’t deserve that,” Ivey said at the end of the segment for which Kathleen Edwards reportedly declined to comment.