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Recent video footage obtained of the last moments of Ervin Leon Edwards’ life seems to contradict police reports about what happened.
Edwards died on November 26, 2013 lying facedown in a West Baton Rouge Parish Jail cell after officers used force, including a taser, to restrain him, reports The Advocate.
In the video, Edwards, 38, seems at times to be struggling with the officers, while at other times, he appears motionless. When the officers, about half a dozen total, leave, they do not return to check on him for 10 minutes, despite the fact that he appears to when they leave.
“The fact that the subject appeared unresponsive, perhaps unconscious on the floor as the officers withdrew from the cell, should have resulted in an immediate request for medical intervention and a quick determination of whether there was a pulse or breathing,” said Greg Meyer, a nationally recognized use of force expert told The Advocate. “If not, CPR should have been started immediately.”
Meyer said that Edwards’ death, caused by “excited delirium” from a combination of bad health and police force, was not uncommon.
“This incident has all the appearances of a typical arrest-related death that happens hundreds of times each year around the country, and this subject may well have passed away regardless of police and medical intervention,” Meyer said.
However, according to The Advocate, Glenn Holt, a corrections expert, said that the handling of Edwards’ case, especially the 10 minute wait before anyone checked on Edwards, was “bad correctional practice.”
“This is bad practice all the way around,” Holt said. “One of the worst things I’ve seen.”
Officially, the cause of Edwards’ death was declared to be “acute cocaine and phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication in association with restraint by law enforcement.” However, several questions remain as police accounts and video footage seem to be in contradiction.
The officer who pulled his stun gun on Edwards, Dustin McMullan, said that he only used his taser for a few seconds, but the video footage showed him holding the stun gun to Edwards for almost a minute and a half, with a blue light seen several times between Edwards and the stun gun in a period of 45 seconds.
“I then pulled the trigger on the Taser using the full five second circle on Edwards,” McMullan wrote. Later, he added, “Due to the obvious lack of effect of the Taser, I then re-holstered it.”
McMullan also said that another officer checked Edwards and saw breathing and movement in his arms, but the video does not show any movement from Edwards after the use of force.
According to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Edwards’ only son, Edwards got into a “minor argument” with his girlfriend, which ended quickly. However, when officers questioned him about his “sagging” pants, things got heated. Edwards was arrested and became combative, even threatening to kill the officers.
When an officer threatened to “tase” Edwards, his girlfriend asked them not to use their stun guns, because Edwards had high blood pressure. Because of this high blood pressure, some use of force experts wonder if Edwards should have been flagged for his bad health, including partial deafness and a mental disability.
“The drugs didn’t kill him,” said Viney Edwards, Ervin Edwards mother. “The police killed him.”