ATTORNEY JESSICA J. TRAVIS PART OF LEGAL TEAM THAT OBTAINED PUBLIC RELEASE OF GREGORY EDWARDS JAIL VIDEO
Attorneys Jessica J. Travis, Edward L. Birk and Logan McEwen fought until Sheriff Wayne Ivey consented to release of Gregory Edwards jail video.
Army combat medic Gregory Edwards was arrested just prior to Christmas in 2018 after exhibiting bizarre behavior. Mr. Edwards’ 9-month-pregnant wife told officers that he was suffering from PTSD and needed to go to the VA or hospital. Instead, he was arrested and taken to the Brevard County, Florida jail.
Gregory Edwards’ military service and story: The chronicle of a U.S. Army vet’s violent end at the Brevard Jail
Florida Today Watchdog Editor Bobby Block and Investigative Reporter Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon: A death in custody: Army veteran’s treatment in Brevard jail violated sheriff’s office policies
Florida Today Executive Editor Mara Bellaby explains: Why FLORIDA TODAY is suing Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to release Gregory Edwards jail video
Mr. Edwards walked into the Brevard County, Florida jail on his own two feet. Shortly after, he was wheeled out on a stretcher and taken to a hospital where he died the next day. Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey conducted internal investigations but several inconsistencies and questions lingered. Under Florida’s public records laws, the Florida Today newspaper requested the jail video. Ivey refused. Florida Today filed suit. (Brevard County case no. 05-2020-CA-034489)
The case centered on the First Amendment and the public’s right to records under Florida’s Sunshine Law. It included issues of transparency, accountability, veterans’ rights, mental health awareness, proper use of taxpayer dollars and racial injustice. Central to the case was whether a public servant has the right to deny citizens, through the press, access to public records on matters of great public interest. It was also asserted that any security interest claim was waived when Ivey allowed filming and posted videos to social media depicting the interior of the jail.
Despite Ivey’s objection, attorneys for Florida Today won a motion to have the jail video released to the attorneys and their expert. After they reviewed it, they stood ready with expert Roy Bedard [Dr. Bedard’s info] to testify that the video could be released without revealing any security precautions and that officers violated numerous policies during their treatment of Mr. Edwards. The case settled just prior to a highly-anticipated trial when Ivey agreed to release the video.
The video was released to the public on November 13, 2020 – almost 2 years after Mr. Edwards’ arrest and death.
At the jail, Mr. Edwards was initially compliant but did not want to have his photo taken. He stepped away and the booking officer did a leg sweep that took them both to the ground where they began fighting. The video shows multiple officers responding and on top of Mr. Edwards. He was hit, kneed, tasered, pepper sprayed, hand-cuffed, put in a restraint chair and had a spit hood placed over his head before he was left alone in a jail cell.
Officers did not decontaminate Mr. Edwards before leaving in him in the cell suffering from pepper spray. Medical attention was not provided. The taser probes were not removed – a fact that Ivey’s ‘investigations’ failed to mention. Mr. Edwards was left sitting on the probes, strapped in the restraint chair, until he lost consciousness.
The ‘investigations’ likewise failed to find any policy violations for failure to decontaminate, failure to provide medical care and improper use of restraint chair and taser. However, shortly after this event, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office changed their policy – spit hoods are no longer used with restraint chairs or pepper spray.
The sheriff has claimed Mr. Edwards died of excited delirium brought on by drug use. There was no evidence of drug use in Mr. Edwards’ toxicology. Slides of Mr. Edwards’ brain were not sent to the lab to confirm the excited delirium diagnosis. In fact, the medical examiner has refused to return the brain and one kidney to Mr. Edwards’ widow.
Attorney Ben Crump filed two civil rights lawsuits approximately one month after the video was publicly released.
Attorneys for Florida Today
Edward L. Birk, MarksGray in Jacksonville, Florida: Edward L. Birk’s Info
Jessica J. Travis, The Travis Law Firm in Melbourne, Brevard County, Florida: Jessica J. Travis’ Info
Logan K. McEwen, MarksGray in Jacksonville, Florida: Logan K. McEwen’s Info
THE ENTIRE VIDEO CAN BE FOUND HERE –>
*WARNING – It is difficult to watch. Veterans with PTSD may be triggered.**
For more information:
Still photos used here are from video at: http://volusiaexposed.com/brevard/edwards2020/gregoryedwards10302020hearing.html