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FloridaToday Suing Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

“The moment I release it, I give up all of the security features that are in my jail.” – Sheriff Wayne Ivey

The FloridaToday has announced that they are suing the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in order to compel the release of the video within the jail and the resultant death of former Army Medic Gregory Edwards.

When FLORIDA TODAY devoted 10 months to investigating the troubling in-custody death of Army veteran Gregory Edwards, our team combed through more than 500 pages of sheriff’s office investigative reports, listened to more than 50 audio recordings, watched 2 hours and 55 minutes of body cam, in car and dash cam footage from West Melbourne Police and conducted multiple interviews with sources.

One thing we never had a chance to see was the video recording from Brevard County Jail that shows the fight between the combat vet and up to seven corrections deputies that ended with Edwards kneed, punched, pepper sprayed, tased, and strapped into a restraint chair with a spit hood over his head and pepper spray still on his face.

Edwards died the next day at the Rockledge Regional Medical Center.

That video has the potential to help us understand what happened in the jail and to show whether, as State Attorney Phil Archer ruled last year, the deputies’ use of force was justified.

But Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey has refused to release that video saying it would reveal security features at the jail and threaten the well-being of his deputies there.

We don’t buy it.

We don’t either.

As we noted earlier, the BCSO had produced a series of videos made inside the jail by corrections officers.

If one is concerned about the security of the jail, why were those videos made?

Once again, from the FloridaToday article:

And yet Ivey’s own departmentreleased a slickly produced multiple-part video series about Brevard’s jail operations titled “Behind the Bars.” You can watch it on YouTube. The seriesshows the jail booking area, nearby detention cells (including the room where Edwards was left unattended after his fight with deputies), as well as how the deputies go about their daily routines, all without any effort to conceal security features.

The Brevard Chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said that the series “shows us all parts of different areas of the jail including the location of the video camera on the ceiling, inter-workings of the jail, the lay out, location, and often times the number of deputies in each area. Arguably, the high definition video Sheriff Ivey published for public viewing are of higher quality than the surveillance videos the Sheriff’s Office typically provided to defense attorneys in discovery.”

So why not release the video?

LEO’s often say to people “if you have nothing to hide,….” “talk to us;” “let us come into your home;” “let us search your car;” etc.

As the excuse of “jail security” doesn’t pass the laugh test, what is Sheriff Ivey and the BCSO hiding? After all, the BCSO has nothing to hide, do they?

Release the video.

As a bit of a side note, we were looking for some additional information on this and came upon an article out of Chanel 6 in Orlando where a heavily edited video of Edwards arrest led to people making death threats against the officer who was subduing Edwards in the WalMart parking lot.

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A heavily-edited viral video depicting the arrest of Gregory Edwards in December 2018, and his death a day later in a hospital, has created a false impression that the arresting officer killed him, leading to death threats against the officer, according to a memo Wednesday from the city of West Melbourne.

The video released last week on social media by activists and posted on Facebook by his widow, Kathleen Edwards, shows a West Melbourne officer lying atop the 38-year-old combat veteran, holding his head down on the ground with his arm across the back of Edwards’ neck, attempting to keep him subdued, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

It was December 9, 2018, and Edwards, a former combat medic, was having what his wife described at the time as a post-traumatic stress disorder episode and had assaulted a charity worker. The West Melbourne Police Department was the arresting agency. Hours later, Edwards was found in a jail cell unresponsive after a confrontation with corrections deputies in the Brevard County Jail.

The video then jumps from the arrest to the hospital bedside the next day where a brain dead Edwards was taken off life support. The video has since been shared on social media multiple times, including by social commentator and radio host D.L. Hughley on his Instagram page, garnering nearly 500,000 views.

“The video makes it appear that Mr. Edwards’ death was the direct result of his arrest and restraint by West Melbourne police officers.That is not the case,” said the memo by West Melbourne’s City Attorney, Morris Richardson. “As Mrs. Edwards’ attorney would write in March 2019, ‘[i]t is clear that an otherwise healthy [Gregory Edwards] walked into the Jail and, in a very short time, suffered an anoxic brain injury that lead to his death,’” the memo added.

Richardson sent the memo to city officials to address what he called “misinformation being spread on social media”, which he said, “has provoked threats to a West Melbourne officer and his family.” No examples were provided.

Richardson said West Melbourne police officers had arrested Edwards, gathered information about his combat veteran status and history of PTSD, before walking him into the county jail alive and well.

Within two hours, Edwards would be rushed to Rockledge Regional Medical Center where he would be declared dead the following day.

That type of deceitful video and threats don’t help anyone.

However, what caught our eye was a statement by State Attorney Phil Archer.

On Thursday, the State Attorney’s Office released this statement in response to a public records request for the video:

In the interest of transparency, we are publishing our response to Florida Today’s most recent request for a statement, regarding demands to release the jail security video in the Gregory Lloyd Edwards investigation.

On July 1, 2019, State Attorney Phil Archer announced the result of an exhaustive review into the use of force by Brevard County corrections deputies against Gregory Lloyd Edwards during his processing at the jail complex in December of 2018. Based on that review, the use of force was deemed justifiable under Chapter 776, Florida Statutes.

A redacted copy of the complete investigative file used by our office to reach that determination, was made available immediately and at no cost to every media outlet requesting it, including Florida Today newspaper. A redaction notice was provided indicating that the security video from within the Brevard County Jail had been exempted from public record by the Sheriff’s Office, based on the provisions of FS.119.071(3), and 281.301 as security system information.

Florida Today, along with other media outlets have repeatedly requested that our office release the jail security video, despite the potential security risk cited by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. They argue that previously released records, along with publicly available video of a television program filmed in the jail months prior to this incident, should negate any concerns associated with revealing security measures in the video. In each instance we have declined the requests and directed them to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office citing the following reasons.

Our office maintains the position that all security system video provided as part of any criminal investigation or review, is exempt from public record under the provisions of FS.119.071(3), 281.301. The basis for that position is that security system recordings are created or received by law enforcement from a variety of public and private sources. They are then provided to our office for review and use as required.

It is our belief that we are not able to accurately assess these recordings for potentially sensitive or damaging security information, and therefore claim the exemption from public record in every instance. We firmly believe that the decision to release these recordings should fall to the owners, or original provider of the materials.

In order to reverse our position and release the security recording, we would have to be convinced that there is no potential for exposing damaging or sensitive security system information by doing so. To the contrary, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office has determined that the security information within the recording should be exempt from public record.

As a result, releasing the video could potentially compromise the safety and security of both the staff of the Brevard County jail, and the inmates within that facility. Certainly, there are those who would seek to do harm to both groups, if given the opportunity to do so.

The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office has clearly identified exemptions for the records provided and specifically the security video. Further, video previously recorded or released may or may not depict security information in place at the time the video in the Edwards inquiry was recorded. Again, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office is in the best if not the only position to make that determination.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we have informed Florida Today and other media outlets, that any person or organization can move to have the Court conduct a hearing and potentially order the release of the video as a public record. We find it disappointing that Florida Today has never published our complete reasoning for honoring the security exemption of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office or explained why they have not sought to obtain the video by petitioning the Court to order its release. (emphasis in original)

We had never seen the statement by Archer and for the most part we agree with it.

After all, Archer’s office is not the custodian of the record / video. Ivey is. It is Ivey who makes the call on the release which he has done.

However, now the FloridaToday has decided to go to court to compel the Sheriff release the video. It is more fuel to the fire between the FloridaToday and Ivey.

Even worse, because the Sheriff will defend lawsuit, it is the people of Brevard who will be paying the additional legal costs for that defense.

This would all end if Sheriff Ivey would do the right and moral thing to do which is release the video.



2 Responses to “FloridaToday Suing Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.”

  1. Carla says:

    It is obvious that Ivey’s stated reason for not releasing the video is merely a pretext. I hope the Court rules in favor of releasing the video. It seems like that is the only chance for justice in this case.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Carla,

      Thank you for the comment.

      Funny thing about “justice” is that it is often what we want it to be, rather than what it should be. (We are speaking in general terms here.)

      Nothing can bring Edwards back, but if the officers did nothing wrong, that should assuage the emotions of the people in the community. We’ve heard and talked with officers and medical professionals who all state that in some / many cases, when a person has an episode like Edwards had, the person is very difficult to control and the force that is needed to get them under control in hard to comprehend to a lay person who hasn’t witnessed or been a part of such an episode.

      Such actions on a video may be seen by some as extreme and unnecessary and that’s not good. At the same point, if the actions of the officers went from necessary force to excessive force or violence, plus subsequent lapses in medical care, that’s not good either. The officers should be held accountable.

      While we agree with the concept of “justice,” for us, “justice” is letting the evidence lead people to a conclusion. For some, “justice” means a desired outcome. “Justice” for Edwards may be charges or a lawsuit. “Justice” for the officers may be some wanting exoneration of all the accusations.

      The question we all have to ask is “are we willing to accept what the evidence says, rather than what we want or believe fits a certain narrative. That’s why we mentioned in the post the highly edited video that falsely gave the impression that the West Melbourne officer had done something wrong.

      We don’t believe that justice – not defined by a desired outcome but by the lady with the blindfold – can happen without the video.

      Let people see it.

      Thanks again.

      A. Afterwit.

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