9News Investigators: Video of final moments of inmate's life prompts questions from victim's family

9News Investigators: Video of final moments of inmate's life prompts questions from victim's family
Published: Jan. 9, 2015 at 11:59 PM CST
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Ervin Edwards in the West Baton Rouge Parish Prison
Ervin Edwards in the West Baton Rouge Parish Prison
Ervin Edwards
Ervin Edwards

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Surveillance video obtained by 9News Investigators shows the final minutes of an inmate's life inside the West Baton Rouge Detention Center.

The sheriff's department claims Ervin Edwards, 38, resisted as officers tried to book him. His family disagrees. After reviewing the video, they believe officers at the jail are responsible for his death.

The surveillance video from inside the West Baton Rouge Detention Center on November 26, 2013 shows Edwards being booked for allegedly disturbing the peace at a gas station. Several officers bring him into a jail cell. On the way there the video shows Edwards' pants around his ankles, his feet and hands are cuffed. He trips and officers drag him into the room.

Minutes later, the officers transport him to another cell. He falls again. Officers drag him inside, face down, still cuffed. Six officers hold him down. One of them pulls out a taser and puts it on his backside. It appears an officer stepped on Edwards' back, another on his head. A minute goes by, and it appears Edwards is motionless, apparently still being tased. Officers begin to leave, but one remains and continues to hold the taser on Edwards for almost another minute. Paramedics arrived 20 minutes later. Edwards was pronounced dead.

His sister, Elizabeth Edwards, watched the video on Friday for the first time.

"I just can't believe it. The beating, the torture they did my brother," Elizabeth Edwards said.

West Baton Rouge Sheriff Mike Cazes declined a television interview on Friday saying he could not comment on a pending legal matter. But in an interview with 9News on December 3, 2014 he said Edwards repeatedly fought with officers as they tried to book him.

"They gave him a three count demand saying 'Okay if you don't cooperate, you will be tased. All three times, ultimately, he used some profanity back toward the policeman and said 'do what you have to do," Cazes said.

After seeing the video, Edwards' sister said she is not buying it.

"I was expecting to see at least some kind of fight, but there was none. They lied," Elizabeth Edwards said.

According to the Jefferson Parish Coroner's report, Edwards died as a result of "acute cocaine and phencyclidine intoxication in association with restraint by law enforcement."

His mother, Viney Edwards, who did not want to look at the jail surveillance tape said she warned deputies not to use a taser on Edwards.

"He had a plate in his jaw and a plate in his left shoulder," Edwards explained.

While she admits her son had been arrested before on drugs and weapons charges, Viney said this time lawmen were out of line.

"What his life was about before he went to jail has nothing do with not coming out of that jail. They killed him," Viney Edwards said.

The family's attorney, Donna Grodner, filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 3, 2013.

A trial date has not been set.

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