The injustices that led to the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement and this year drove hundreds of people to march in pain and protest against the police’s inhumane treatment of Black Americans, are littered across the this country.
The latest development in the story of the December 2018 death of U.S. Army veteran Gregory Lloyd Edwards underscores just how common those injustices are, as well as how many of these stories still haven’t been fully told.
Since Edwards died at the Brevard County Jail nearly two years ago, his family, veterans groups, civil rights advocates, and the media have been seeking video footage from the jail that could further explain the ruling of death by “excited delirium” given by a medical examiner at the time, reports Florida Today.
During that time, the Sheriff Wayne Ivey of the Brevard County Jail kept doggedly refusing to release any footage of the incident, saying only that the decorated veteran was a “violent individual who was violently out of control,” and that his officers followed all necessary policies in their interactions with him.
But after Florida Today sued his office for the video of Edwards in jail, Sheriff Ivey finally released the long-awaited footage this weekend. The tape shows that cops ignored numerous department policies after they used force against Edwards, and also neglected to practise even the most basic human decency towards the American veteran who was shackled to a chair, his head covered with a “spit hood,” and convulsing, while in their custody:
From Florida Today:
For almost 16 minutes, the surveillance video shows Edwards – a decorated former U.S. Army medic – all alone in holding cell #9, confined in a wheeled chair, taser darts lodged in back, his torso ever so slightly inclined, hands cuffed straight behind him, lap thrust forward, writhing and moving his mouth as if he were gasping for air.
And while he swiveled his head and contorted his face and body until he stopped moving altogether but for some twitches at 2:23 pm, the guards charged with closely monitoring him while he was in the restraint chair were focused on computer screens, paperwork, and each other, ignoring Edwards in his last conscious moments.
Edwards, a veteran who served in Iraq and Kosovo and was diagnosed with severe PTSD, was left alone in his jail cell after an altercation with Brevard County Jail officers in which he appeared to be resisting their attempts to book him. He received no medical attention from jail staff until he lost consciousness, and died a day later in hospital having never regained it.
According to Florida Today, the jail “did not follow policy that demanded “continuous” monitoring of him once he was strapped in the restraint chair, which can restrict breathing and circulation.”
Edwards was initially arrested after assaulting a charity worker in a Walmart parking lot, which his wife described to police at the time as a PTSD episode. Calls for police to be defunded have intensified this year, in part so that resources for responding to mental health incidents can be funneled towards social services agencies rather than police departments.
A friend and representative of Edwards’ family told Florida Today that it was disheartening to see the lack of care that the veteran received.
“It’s upsetting to see anyone treated that way. He survived war but he couldn’t survive coming home,” said Dana Jackson, also a veteran. “They continued to go on with their daily job like nothing just happened. 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.”
All deputies involved in the incident were cleared of any wrongdoing in the death of Edwards by the Sheriff’s office and the Office of the State Attorney.