BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Nearly two years after his death in custody, the public is getting a look at what happened to Gregory Edwards after he was taken to the Brevard County Jail Complex.
Edwards, a U.S. combat veteran, died Dec. 10, 2018, while in the custody of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. Edwards was arrested a day earlier by West Melbourne police outside a retail store for allegedly assaulting a charity worker. His wife, Kathleen, told arresting officers her husband was suffering from PTSD.
Video showing Edwards in a confrontation with deputies at the jail was released Friday as the result of a lawsuit filed by News 6 partner Florida Today.
The raw footage, which shows Edwards arriving at the jail, becoming agitated while in the holding cell and getting in a fight with a deputy, is available at the bottom of this story. Due to length limitations, a few minutes from the beginning and end of the two-hour video have been cut out.
After the initial confrontation, as many as seven deputies got involved in trying to subdue Edwards, who can’t be seen for about four minutes because he’s entirely surrounded by law enforcement. He becomes visible again as deputies are strapping him into a restraint chair and placing a spit hood over his head.
Florida Today has provided its analysis on the video, which you can read by clicking or tapping here.
IT’S TIME FOR “TRUTH BE TOLD”
IT’S TIME FOR “TRUTH BE TOLD” As previously discussed, today’s episode of “Truth Be Told” will describe and review the Brevard County Jail Security Video of December 9th, 2018, as authorized by the court for release. Over the course of the past 22 months the Florida Today has written in excess of 57 articles, many of which misrepresented the facts and attacked the integrity and professionalism of our Corrections Deputies, the Medical Examiner, our State Attorney, State of Florida Medical Examiners’ Commission and even the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. All due to the fact that each of these agencies failed to support the inaccurate representations and narrative as reported by the Florida Today. In fact, even the Florida Today’s own expert witness, Dr. Roy Bedard, an expert in defensive tactics and response to resistance, testified to the fact that our Deputies’ response and use of force to Edward’s violent attack on Deputy Otto was appropriate as Edward's was fighting the entire time. Dr. Bedard also found that our use of the restraint chair based upon Edwards’ violent actions was appropriate as well!! So in this episode of “Truth Be Told” you will be able to evaluate for yourself just how our team actually responded when Gregory Edwards violently attacked Deputy Brian Otto and how the Florida Today has mislead our citizens in their reporting of this incident!! To more thoroughly review the investigative reports, internal investigation, audio recordings of the inmate interviews who witnessed the incident, and the full-length Jail security video please visit our website at brevardsheriff.com and as always thank you for your trust and support of the incredible members of our agency!! Sheriff Wayne IveyPosted by Brevard County Sheriff's Office, Florida (Official) on Thursday, November 12, 2020
The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office has also posted an edited video that includes narration from Sheriff Wayne Ivey. That video is embedded above.
Two hours after the surveillance tapes were made available, Dana Jackson, who was Edwards' friend and neighbor, spoke on behalf of the family. Like Edwards, she was a combat medic and explained how that role in particular can lead to PTSD, combat stress, compassion fatigue and burnout.
“Now, combat medic doesn’t have the macho undertone of sniper or special ops. But make no mistake, it is one of the toughest jobs a soldier can have. Medics on the battlefield must render aid to those injured and in doing so, they expose themselves to attack. In movies you hear the term ‘head on a swivel,' a medic can’t do that when he or she is trying to render aid. Their entire focus is on their patient,” Jackson said.
She described Edwards as a loving husband and father who should have received help under the Baker Act instead of being taken into custody. She also said a crisis intervention team trained in matters related to mental health should have been called.
“Greg suffers from PTSD and on the day he died, he needed help -- the same he helped he rendered when he was a combat medic. He needed someone to stop looking around for threats and to see him,” Jackson said.
While Jackson had not yet watched the footage, Randy Foster was also at the press conference and said he had reviewed the video. Foster, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran and retired supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal, was recently elected to the Palm Bay City Council but said he was at the event in his own personal capacity.
He said the deputies used excessive force and he’d like to see the U.S. Justice Department review the case.
“Having multiple offices trying to restrain someone is proper, but to tase someone when you have -- what, six people, seven people? Each of them has got two hands. That’s 14 hands on one person that only has two hands. So to tase someone and to give violent knee strikes while you have six people pinning him down, that’s excessive,” Foster said.
In July 2019, the state attorney’s office determined that the deputies involved in the confrontation acted within reason.
A medical examiner wrote in an autopsy report that Edwards was pepper-sprayed, shocked with a stun gun and handcuffed, then put in a restraint chair and a spit hood. He was later found unresponsive in a holding cell and died at a local hospital the next day, records show.
His death was ruled accidental as a result of excited delirium.
The public in recent months has demanded answers as to what exactly happened to Edwards in the final hours before his death, prompting Florida Today to file legal action against the department to release the video.
Ivey initially denied making the footage public, citing security concerns for deputies and inmates. The video released Friday as a result of a settlement in the lawsuit has been redacted in accordance with those security concerns.
WARNING: The raw video below contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.