BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The two hours of Brevard County jail security footage made public Friday revealed to Peter Douglas for the first time the moment that his little brother Gregory Edwards lost consciousness, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
It was the first time that Douglas, 47, a former manager at Home Depot, understood the full story of what happened to his brother in the jail on Dec. 9, 2018, before he was put in an ambulance and taken to a local hospital where he died the next day. But it was not the first time Douglas had seen the jail security footage, or at least, some it.
Earlier this year, on July 21, Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey drove to Broward County where Douglas lives to personally show him what Douglas now knows were excepts of the video, showing just part of the story.
Excluded from what Ivey showed him, Douglas said, were his brother’s last moments of consciousness, as Edwards struggled and convulsed while alone in a cell, strapped in a restraint chair with a spit hood over his head and pepper spray on his face.
WARNING: The raw video below contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.
“I wasn’t given all of the all of the facts of the situation,” Douglas told FLORIDA TODAY after watching the full video Friday.
Edwards was arrested in West Melbourne on Dec 9, 2018, during what his wife described as a PTSD episode, in which he attacked a charity worker in the parking lot of a Walmart.
Soon after he was wheeled into a cell by himself and was found unresponsive almost 16 minutes later. When he left the jail, it was on a gurney about two hours after he’d arrived. The State Attorney’s Office ruled on July 1, 2019, that the officers use of force to gain control of Edwards was reasonable and justified.
The video shows Edwards as the aggressor, but it also shows that corrections deputies failed to decontaminate Edwards once he was subdued, or provide him with immediate medical attention, or monitor him “continuously” once he was in the restraint chair, all of which are required by the sheriff’s own use of force policies.
Ivey refused to release the security video showing what happened to Edwards, citing security exemptions to the state’s public records laws. FLORIDA TODAY sued Ivey for video which was finally released Friday.
Douglas recalled his meeting with Ivey at the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department was in the presence of two of Ivey’s deputies, a stenographer and the sheriff’s attorney. The video Ivey showed him was at most 20 minutes long and focused on the altercation up until Edwards was placed in the restraint chair, Douglas said.
Edwards was then taken to the jail where he resisted being booked and when he tried to take on one deputy and the fight ended up on the floor as many as eight others responded, punching, kneeing, tasing and pepper spraying Edwards to get him under control. They then cuffed him, strapped him in a restraint chair and put the spit hood on.
“From that part (to when) they put him in a chair they showed me like a couple, maybe a couple seconds of him sitting there in the chair in front of the desk. But they never showed me to the point where they wheeled him back into a cell and to the point where he became nonresponsive,” Douglas said Friday evening.
He recalled the sheriff cut the video at that point and “told me something to the effect of, it’s just more of the same thing going on.”
But those long minutes of Edwards writhing in the restraint chair, taser darts in his back, hands cuffed behind him with pepper spray on his face underneath the spit hood were important to see for Douglas.
“These are the parts I was looking for because I noticed how they came back and they seen him in a cell, while he was expiring and regardless to what anybody tells me he was dead on that jail floor when they were doing CPR,” Douglas said.
Douglas said he feels West Melbourne Police should have known better than to take his brother to the jail, and sheriff’s office corrections deputies should have known Edwards was having a mental health crisis, information that was documented with his arrest.
“He was a US (Army) veteran, and he was having a PTSD attack and the police were informed,” he said referring to WMPD bodycam footage where Edwards' wife Kathleen clearly tells officers about her husband’s mental health history, medications, and past psychotic breaks.
“They knew what they were dealing with,” he said.
While Douglas accepts his brother had to be violently restrained, he said that’s no excuse for leaving him alone in a cell afterwards.
“They had to restrain him. That’s cool. But when they after they restrain him and they got control of him, there was no need to leave them in the cell, all that time with the spit hood on and, in front of the camera, you can clearly see, he was trying to catch a breath. You could see him when he expired right there,” Douglas said, his voice raised in exasperation.
Edwards official cause of death was ruled “excited delirium and complications.” His autopsy left unexplained a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation. Excited delirium is a controversial diagnosis, not recognized by many medical bodies and criticized by groups such as the ACLU for being used to whitewash police custody deaths.
“I don’t see any signs of excited delirium. I see a restrained man that couldn’t breathe, and he died,” Douglas said.
Douglas said that when Ivey played the tape for him it was focused on explaining why up to nine deputies were needed to subdue Edwards.
“That’s understandable, but at the end of the day when he was in restraints he was — (Deputies) had control at that point, (and) at that point, you could have taken the spit hood off... And when it was found out that he was unresponsive, they left them in the chair for so long and walked him down the hall (to the medical ward) like nothing was going on.”
Douglas said he also thought the sheriff’s resistance to making the video public was “unbelievable.”
“I guess that’s the way America is set up right now: to just keep what they think is important hidden behind closed doors,” Douglas said, adding that Ivey’s attacks on his family in his newly produced videos about the Edwards case, “Truth be Told” are hard to comprehend.
Ivey called reports in FLORIDA TODAY “false” and lay responsibility for Edwards' death on his widow Kathleen, also a veteran with PTSD, saying she failed to tell the arresting officers that Edwards' may have used inhalants prior to his arrest.
But Kathleen Edwards never claims that she saw her husband use inhalants around the time of Edwards' arrest, only that she noticed compressed air canisters in the trash the night prior. Additionally, Edwards' toxicology came back clean in his autopsy, despite multiple tests conducted by the medical examiner for traces of inhalants or any drug use. The sheriff, however, has been insistent that Edwards was huffing from the first press release the sheriff’s office published after his death to now.
“If you done what you was supposed to do legally, if you’re just doing your job, I don’t understand what’s with the attacks,” Douglas asked. “Like, you want to get ahead of the game and just start attacking people? What is that for?”
But when Douglas said that, he hadn’t yet seen Ivey’s video interview with Space Coast Daily’s editor Giles Malone posted Friday afternoon in which Ivey touted Douglas' reaction when shown the video earlier this year.
“We actually showed it to Greg Edwards' brother. I personally played it for him. You know what his response was after he saw it? (It) wasn’t anything that you would you would go, ‘Wow, I can’t believe!’ His response was: ‘Well, why didn’t you just play that?’ It wasn’t outrage. It wasn’t he was upset. It wasn’t anything. In fact, I think he was upset at his brother (Edwards), for, for what he had just witnessed from it,” Ivey said.
Douglas was furious and in a text to FLORIDA TODAY on Friday night, he wrote: