Florida sheriff makes ‘uncomfortable’ surprise visit to the widow of Gregory Edwards

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Flanked by half a dozen deputies, a Florida sheriff paid an unannounced night time visit to the home of the widow of Gregory Edwards, who is demanding the release of a jail video showing a confrontation leading to her husband’s death.

After deputies called Kathleen Edwards to step outside of her home in Grant-Valkaria, Florida, for a welfare check, she said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey walked out of the dark, “grabbed” and hugged Edwards, whom he had not met until that moment.  

Then the sheriff invited her and one other person to see the video of the 2018 fight between corrections deputies and her husband in the jail that ended with Gregory Edwards being tased, pepper sprayed and strapped in a restraint chair. He stopped breathing shortly after and died the next day. The state attorney found no wrongdoing in the case after the sheriff’s office conducted its own investigation.

The sheriff has so far made no comment on the visit.

“Out of respect for Mrs. Edwards’ privacy, the Sheriff’s Office will not be commenting on the nature or purpose of tonight’s service call at her residence,” Tod Goodyear, spokesman for the sheriff’s office said while confirming deputies recorded the event for an unknown reason. 

Edwards: ‘For them to just come to my house like this. It’s disrespectful.’

The surprise visit left Kathleen Edwards, a combat veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder, rattled emotionally, and describing it as “uncomfortable,” “intimidating,” and “shocking.” She said the pretext of the visit according to the deputies is that they had received a call suggesting that she was unwell.

Edwards said she was summoned outside by deputies who asked her if she was willing to meet the sheriff. Edwards, who has been calling for an independent investigation and to see the video of her husband’s confrontation at the jail, told them, “no.”

“But he came anyway. I was so scared for my life, there were six cop cars parked outside of my house, then they called me on my cellphone telling me to come outside,” said Edwards, a single mother who was home with her sister when they noticed the patrol cars, including some that were hidden. 

“He hugged me and recorded it. This shouldn’t be happening. For them to just come to my house like this. It’s disrespectful. I’m a veteran, I’m just thankful to God I was able to hold it together. I just want to be a mom to my babies and to be safe,” she said before breaking down in tears.

Several neighbors and veterans responded to her home after she called for help before going out to see the deputies.

“I tried calling my lawyer, I called Alton Edmond,” she said, referring to the lawyer and community activist challenging Ivey for the sheriff’s job in November.

She questioned why the sheriff didn’t call her attorney to schedule a meeting. She said she immediately thought of her children, not knowing what was going happening to her when she stepped outside and saw all the deputies there. 

“For me to see those male deputies in front of my house, it’s like no one is taking in consideration the mental health aspect of all this. My husband was an army medic, devoted to other veterans. We thought this was a safe place for us,” she said before dropping her head down in tears. 

“I wanted them to leave so I just went out. I don’t feel safe in my own home,” she said, sitting in her living room in front of several portraits of her husband along with the American flag she was presented at his funeral.  

The nighttime visit comes after more than 3,000 to 4,000 people peacefully gathered last week in Cocoa, Florida, to demand police reform while taking up the cause of Gregory Lloyd Edwards. Ivey did not attend. Ivey had also summoned several ministers in the Black community to explain why he would not release the video of the confrontation, however, the leaders backed the release.

Ivey announced on Saturday that he would ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review his agency’s own case. He maintained that he would not release the video because Florida statutes exempt any records that showed security details at the county jail, although other videos exist of the facility. 

Edmond, the attorney, questioned Ivey’s handling of the situation. “I am shocked and sorely disappointed…He showed a clear and utter disregard for and insensitivity toward Mrs. Edwards’ compromised state at the sight of the deputies’ unexpected presence,” Edmond said in a statement sent to Florida Today of the USA TODAY Network. 

Kathleen Edwards was home with her sister and two small children when the incident occurred Sunday. 

Edwards, who admits to struggling emotionally at times in wake of her husband’s death, said she had expressed depressive thoughts two days prior on a private veterans’ social media page called Formation 22. 

Gabby Bonilla, Edwards’ sister called the unannounced visit “disrespectful.”

“I asked the deputies why there were so many of them? They said they were here to do a wellbeing check. They said they actually needed to talk to my sister. I was like, can the rest of you leave?”

Ivey told Edwards that he could show her the video and lay out the case for her and one other person. 

The deputies, however, lingered after Ivey’s visit, then left as several men and neighbors turned up at the home to provide her support.

“I was terrified,” she said. 

“Because the last time I dealt with police officers, my husband didn’t come home.”

Follow reporter J.D. Gallop on Twitter: @JDGallop.