The sheriff only released the crucial security camera footage after local reporters sued for the video in July amid nationwide protests about the use of force by police.
Trigger warning: This report contains details of police brutality that readers may find disturbing
U.S. Army veteran Gregory Lloyd Edwards' family spent the past two years knowing very little about his final moments in a Florida jail. Although Florida Today journalists tried to piece together whatever happened to Edwards while in the Brevard County Sheriff's Office custody on December 10, 2018, with the agency refusing to release crucial security camera footage, the community was left with a plethora of unanswered questions about the Black former U.S. Army combat medic's death. Now, less than a month before Edwards' second death anniversary, they've finally received some answers with Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey publishing the video of a brawl with deputies and what followed.
According to The Washington Post, Ivey published the video on Friday only after Florida Today sued for the footage in July amid nationwide protests about the use of force by police. The two-hour-long tape depicts the events leading up to the moment Edwards—a decorated veteran who served in Kosovo and Iraq—was strapped in a chair for 16 minutes while he appeared to struggle for air, his chest heaving, and his restrained body convulsing. Although the video doesn't have any audio, it shows the late veteran yelling, coughing, or gasping under the sheer white hood put over his head by deputies to keep him from spitting.
"For nearly two years, the family of U.S. Army veteran Gregory Lloyd Edwards knew what his last moments in a Florida jail were like only from the reporting of a local newspaper" @Florida_Today https://t.co/2KIUKu7yjy— Rick Neale (@RickNeale1) November 14, 2020
Edwards was reportedly arrested on December 9, 2018, after assaulting a charity worker in a Walmart parking lot during what his wife, Kathleen, told responding West Melbourne Police officers was a PTSD episode. Kathleen, who is also a veteran, said that her husband hadn't been sleeping well and that they had planned to go to Veterans Affairs for medical help. However, instead of institutionalizing Edwards under the Baker Act—which the family believes would've prevented his death—the officers took him to jail.
Here it is, two hours of footage from the Brevard County Jail showing what happened to Gregory Lloyd Edwards, a US Army Combat medic who died in @BrevardSheriff custody in 2018.— Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon (@alemzs) November 13, 2020
See it for yourself:https://t.co/pIkBhGFbwY
In the video, Edwards initially appears calm in his cell. He eats lunch and at one point even begins doing push-ups. However, as time passes, the veteran becomes visibly irritated and begins banging on the door window. A brawl breaks out when a deputy tries to escort him to be photographed. Over a dozen deputies respond of which, one pepper-sprayed Edwards and another tased him six times. The hooks from the stun gun were still in Edwards's back when he began convulsing alone in his cell. After about five minutes of struggling, the deputies put him in a restraining chair in a cell with a white hood over his head.
Video of the 2018 in custody death of combat veteran Gregory Lloyd Edwards at the Brevard County jail shows he was tased, pepper sprayed—and that guards left taser barbs in his body and placed a spit hood over his head as his face burned from the spray. https://t.co/FdoNnfU4y1— Ethan Brown (@ethanbrown72) November 14, 2020
Although jail staff periodically glanced through the windows of his cell, they did not even enter as Edwards struggled to breathe under the mesh hood. Deputies focused on paperwork or chatted with each other nearby until one noticed that Edwards had stopped moving. By the time a nurse entered the cell, it was already too late. The veteran was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead; a death caused by "excited delirium" as per an autopsy report. Watching the newly released video on Friday, Dana Jackson—a representative of the family and Edwards's neighbor—said deputies should have treated the veteran better.
In Dec., Gregory Lloyd Edwards, a 38-year-old Iraq war veteran, was arrested outside a Wal-Mart in West Melbourne, FL. He was taken to the Brevard County jail and found hours later without a pulse+with what an atty believes to be taser marks on his body. https://t.co/r8YBjoAkpC— Ethan Brown (@ethanbrown72) February 10, 2019
"They just saw him as a bother, as a nuisance," said Jackson, also an Army combat medic in Iraq. "They continued to go on with their daily job like nothing just happened. It’s just so disheartening. I think we all needed to see this. It felt like it was a movie, like, 'Hurry up, hurry up with the time frame. He needs help, he needs help,' is all I kept thinking about." Ivey, who previously refused to release the video citing concerns that revealing the inside of the jail would violate the security of the facility and staff, defended the use of force saying that it followed department procedure.
As a refresher, here's our comprehensive, award-winning coverage of the in-custody death of Gregory Lloyd Edwards, a US Army Combat veteran who died following his arrest in Dec. 2018. (THREAD)https://t.co/23rfdBIhFh— Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon (@alemzs) November 11, 2020
While Ivey also implied that Edwards became ill because he had huffed inhalants, Randy Foster, an expert in police use of force and retired supervisory deputy U.S. marshal, said officers should have handled the veteran differently from the moment he was arrested. "He was degrading his character as a human being," Foster said. "Those comments didn’t need to be added to a veteran who lost his life in a jail. He’s not being prosecuted for his past behavior."