Barry Gedeus Hearing – February 3, 2021, 7 pm Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Barry Gedeus
- Rapporteur Marjorie Cohn
- Commissioner Mr. Arturo Fournier Facio
- Commissioner Prof. Osamu Niikura
- Ms. Alexis Hill, fiancee of Barry Gedeus
- Mr Lee Friedland, attorney for the family
- Ms Greeny Valbuena, attorney for the family
Marjorie Cohn 00:00
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of unjustified killings and maimings of Black individuals by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Barry Gedeus. My name is Marjorie Cohn and I am the record tour for this hearing. Presiding over this hearing our commissioners, Arturo Fournier of Costa Rica, and Commissioner Osamu Niikura of Japan. The witness for this hearing is Lee Friedland. There will be 50 minutes for this hearing. The witness will testify, followed by a period of questions from commissioners, I will call time at the 30 minute mark, and the 45 minute mark, please excuse my interruptions, commissioners for me and nikora I now present to you the witness Lee Friedland, Lee Friedland, please confirm your name.
Lee Friedland 01:22
I am Lee Friedland.
Marjorie Cohn 01:25
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Lee Friedland 01:33
Marjorie Cohn 01:34
You may begin.
Lee Friedland 01:36
Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to express and represent Barry Gedeus in the hard work that is being engaged in both on a national international level to fight the problems associated with police violence, which are represented in, we believe very clearly in Mr. Gedeus’s case. As part of our case, it’s important to understand the background of what the local environment is in relation to the police and their interrelation with the community in our community of Fort Lauderdale, and that is there are two primary policing organizations that police this community in Fort Lauderdale, the first being the Broward sheriff’s office, which was not the police department directly involved in the shooting of Barry Gedeus. And the second is Fort Lauderdale police department. And the reason why that is important as background information in Barry’s case is because what’s been going on locally, relative to these two policing organizations has been a rivalry of sorts. This is going back well before my time as a practicing lawyer in Fort Lauderdale. And as a result of this policing type rivalry. It affects the interactions of the minority communities with both of these policing agencies as you’re gonna learn tonight, specifically with Barry Gedeus and his interaction with the Fort Lauderdale police department.
We, in our case, we’re dealing with a specific officer who was hired by Fort Lauderdale back in 2006. His name is officer Robert Morris. And the reason why I mentioned his name, even in conjunction, even on equal with Barry Gedeus is because we have an officer who had a lengthy, specific history of engaging in acts of violence to the course of his duties as a Fort Lauderdale police officer. In essence, we have an officer who we’ve learned through our investigation who’ve used his job as if he’s engaging in an ongoing battle or war with the community that he is assigned to police in. And how is it that we know that? In addition to researching his background and his records specifically, we have had the opportunity as part of some of the publicity that we have with our case locally, to learn from some of the communities and to gather video evidence exactly what Robert Morris translates policing into action within our community. And that particular background colored, directed his interaction with our client, Barry Gedeus. First of all, officer Morris is an officer who has had 84 separate use of force complaints in a career that began in 2006. These complaints are unusual for their explicit violence associated with both arresting and apprehending and interviewing suspects. We are aware of distinct episodes in which Robert Morris engaged in violent actions in association with his work as a Fort Lauderdale police officer.
The first of which we became aware was in a 2008 when Mr. Morris was before a grand jury and asked to answer questions with regard to his shooting, and killing of what we have learned through our investigation was an unarmed man. Now in the course of the grand jury investigation, there was the allegation that Mr. Timothy Brown who was gunned down, unarmed, we allege, had a piece or a segment of what appeared to be allegedly, Officer Morris to be a gun, which the grand jury determined justified the shooting. We have evidence we believe to both friends and family that Timothy Brown was in fact unarmed back in 2008, and shot because he was suspected to be involved in an incident where us firearms were used. Then, we have another incident in 2013. And these are separate these are individual incidents, not just part of these 89 complaints or 84 complaints, that Officer Morris had. We have a during the course of the arrest of a murder suspect, and this is why in the course of my presentation, I used the background the relationship between the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Lauderdale police department, in the course of apprehending a murder suspect, it was a multi jurisdictional investigation that was being conducted. Officer Morris was involved in apprehending this murder suspect and as part of the apprehension he released his police dog on the suspect. There was a deputy present, deputy Jeffrey Cogan for the Broward sheriff’s office. He reported officer Morris for the fact that upon releasing the dog the suspect had already been in custody. In other words, he released a dog to bite or attack a suspect who was already in custody and posed no threat to Officer Morris.
Deputy Cogan went on record with this action and there was a grand jury another grand jury investigation impaneled locally here. The facts were explored. The State Attorney ultimately took the lead in the investigation and found as a result of interviewing multiple parties, they took no action against officer Morris who again was acting out violently with regard to the work that he was sworn to do. A whistleblower lawsuit was filed by deputy Cogan and ultimately the court system resolved these issues. However, it never resolved the fact that officer Morris had no business, frankly, based on his interactions with the community, being out there and policing.
Which brings us to the circumstances in March, of March 8 of last year that ended Barry Gedeus’s life. Now our firm has conducted an extensive investigation of what transpired and and the panel tonight should know that this investigation is still pending a grand jury, which has not been impaneled in Florida. We have as much confidence in the grand jury process for Robert Morris in this case, as has been exhibited in the prior evaluations of his aggressive conduct as a police officer. In other words, we feel confident or we lack confidence in the due process that they’ve been engaged in here in Broward County for many, many years. And let me explain to you at least based on the facts of the case, why do we feel that way? First of all, to know Barry Gedeus is is to know that he was a mild mannered landscaper. Essentially, what he did was he would contract with individuals, he would use his weed whacker. And he would mow lawns throughout the community. He was living with his fiance at the time, Alexis. And sometime around eight o’clock in the evening, on March 8 2020. He left his home in the Fort Lauderdale area. And on his bicycle, he was proceeding to go to a Walmart. Now what we learned is on his way to the Walmart either before or after, he did have some sort of consensual encounter with a woman by the name of Vanessa Smith. Now, it’s not my role to sully the name of a alleged victim, because ultimately she would allege that she was assaulted that night. But we’ve had the opportunity to both examine Miss Smith’s history, the fact that at the time he had recently been released from a drug and rehabilitation center, that she had demonstrated previously on several arrests an addiction to the street drug that’s referred to as flocka.
We also have the opportunity to investigate and we have, I don’t know if we can screen share today. Do we have that ability? We have some video evidence that establishes what transpired at the scene because in the course of our investigation, we were able to get a video of a local church which is right in the area of where the supposed assault of Miss Smith occurred. But I can summarize the evidence and of course, if you folks would like the opportunity to review it we have it available for you to see because it’s important evidence as it relates to the actions of officer Morris which were to follow. And that is, there was some type of consensual encounter between Miss Smith and Mr. Gedeus. And we know this because we have video, it’s a grainy video, but it’s a video nonetheless that depicts the circumstances of their interaction. In other words, some type of consensual interaction which is very clear in terms of how they interact with each other.
Charlotte Kates 10:20
Excuse me, Mr. Friedland, you can screen share.
Lee Friedland 10:24
Greeny, actually my associate, because I’m technically deficient.
It’s Greeny Valbuena. She’s right there, standing right behind her. Okay, and we’re not going to that we gathered, there’s a couple of significant pieces of video that is another reason why this video is a significant from our standpoint in terms of the actions of the police officer, because it will not be disputed that Miss Smith ultimately made the allegation that there had been some type of sexual assault. And obviously, this is not a video that was available to the police on the evening in question. The reason why we’re showing the video is in part to establish that we believe we have definitive evidence of a consensual encounter. And secondarily, we have a timestamp that would indicate the actions of Robert Morris were well out of bounds of propriety, and in violation of the use of force provisions that the Fort Lauderdale Police Department has in place. That what we see here, and it’s hard to see in the top left corner, if you see I believe, hopefully our pointer is showing you we see the grainy figure of a man at about 8:44 walking away from the alleyway in the area of the church. And this is a very important timeframe for us, because the alleged victim had left the area of moments before I don’t know, four or five minutes before, and she proceeded to a cell phone. I’m sorry, to a telephone of a local business that’s nearby in this area. That 8:44 timeframe is important for us because we also know from the police CAD information, the information that indicates when the police is dispatched, and when they interacted with Mr. Gedeus, that the interaction with Mr. Gedeus occurs sometime at about 9:11 or 9:15 in the evening, and the reason why that is important is because I don’t know — Greeny, do you have the map of the neighborhood?
Charlotte Kates 10:33
Lee Friedland 10:48
Okay, so that’s the area that we’re showing in the video, the alleyway. There was determined to have been a DNA sample that matched my client and the alleged victim of the case. In other words, there was some type of consensual sexual encounter that occurred on the video. If the video further displays that by showing the two figures earlier, walking down that alleyway, and then one of the figures leaving and then of course, Mr. Gedeus leaving at the time that we’ve shown. Now, the reason why I pulled up this map for you all to see this evening is we can see the dead end alleyway which is an alleyway by the church that we’ve depicted. But if Ms. Valbuena can show you the location of the shooting, which occurs, we have it timed out either 39 or 42 minutes later. And I will tell you as she’s moving the Google map into the area, we have it right this. So this is the intersection where Mr. Gedeus ultimately is confronted with Robert Morris, the police officer who was involved who was the shooting, the officer who shot Barry Gedeus to death down this roadway. And the reason why we suggest that this is extremely important in outlining the actions of the police officers as being inappropriate is because Mr. Gedeus was located within blocks of where he allegedly committed a sexual assault roughly 40 minutes later, undermining whether or not at least in his mind when it occurred in that alleyway was anything less than a consensual interaction.
So he has no reason to believe or run from police or flee or act violently. And we believe that the linchpin evidence that establishes what transpired at that corner is actually presently in possession of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which we have not got a copy yet. However, in our investigation, we did have an opportunity if — Greeny, if you can show the house I don’t know if you can, you can turn the — we did have an opportunity to meet and review with the owner of this home. Serendipitously, this home is located right at the intersection with a camera that depicts that intersection. And of course that night, the investigator who ultimately investigated the shooting of Mr. Gedeus went to that home, and they were able to retrieve video evidence which we have not had the opportunity to see in its entirety. However, we have had the opportunity to review what was on this evidence with the owner of the camera, because as the evidence was being reviewed with the police that night back in March, they I believe, is on the 21st. He sat there and reviewed the film with them and told us what it what it contained.
And next is the key fact in what we believe is the murder of Barry Gedeus back on March 8 2020, which is that Robert Morris is an overzealous police officer with a history of acting in a fashion that is inappropriate and violent with suspects, including shooting and killing a suspect years before, happens to drive up Southwest 21st. Here at this intersection. And Mr. Gedeus is fitting the description of, the BOLO of someone who was involved in a sexual assault, that was not a sexual assault, is on a bike and wearing dreads. When Morris visualizes our client, he then u turns his vehicle up the roadway, turns around and turns because Mr. Gedeus, literally was slowly riding his bicycle up this Northwest 6th place towards that stop sign. Now what we’re told by the person who own that home and reviewed the video is that what happens there is that the police officer aggressively pulls his car and strikes Barry Gedeus’s bicycle to the point where the windshield of the police cruiser is cracked. In other words, Morris hits him with his car.
There is a struggle that ensues there. Remember, Barry Gedeus has never had a firearm, is unarmed for any purpose. There’s no allegation that he was armed whatsoever. There’s a struggle, in other words that Robert Morris is reaching for his police cruiser attempting to grab Barry Gedeus and Barry throws his bike down which is found in the center of this intersection and spreads down Northwest 6th place. Now we know a lot about Barry Gedeus, some of which Robert Morris could not have known, which is that he, because of press issues because of issues, is a extremely mild mannered person. He’s a non violent human being. He springs up 6th place. And ultimately Morris catches up with him in front of this empty lot. That will you’ll see in a minute. When Morris gets there, we know, based on the cones that we found in the area that there was at least eight shots fired in close range. So an unarmed Barry Gedeus, who lies dead crumpled in this lot? There are videos that we have the opportunity to see taken by neighbors in the area that clearly established that there was no firearm anywhere around there. Yes, there was never a gun found.
And today, even though the grand jury has not been impaneled, and we’ve never had the opportunity to take officer Morris’s testimony, there has not been an allegation of which we’re aware that Barry had pulled or brandished a weapon in any way. And Morris is allegedly injured on the evening and he receives medical treatment for a wrist injury, and as a result of that he has never provided a statement to us or to the public, which details his involvement in this shooting of Barry Gedeus. That way, we were fortunate that they were neighbors in the area that were able to videotape and establish very clearly that there was no weapon in the area and that Barry Gedeus was unarmed and in fact executed by Robert Morris on March 8 2020. In the end of the day, we have issues in my case that need to be litigated. The reason why I discussed the inter jurisdictional issues between Broward Sheriff and Fort Lauderdale is that even in the course of this investigation, there were over arching or overlapping jurisdictional roles. The sexual battery investigation, which was ultimately closed, involved the Broward sheriff’s office because of the jurisdiction. Fort Lauderdale has never investigated this adequately. And we know that Broward sheriff’s office, through the FDLE, has never adequately investigated this. We’ve had an opportunity to speak with the lead FDLE investigator in the case and we are waiting again, given the nascent stage of their investigation even though it’s been many years because of COVID. We’re waiting the exchange of information associated with Mr. Gedeus’s death.
I think that covers the the issues relative to the shooting. The police are asserting that this was a justifiable shooting because Barry Gedeus at the time was a fleeing felon we have outlined in fact that our A lot of the things that they’re saying shock the conscience and do not fit in with ordinary common sense. There was, there was no reason for Morris to strike his vehicle against Barry Gedeus, by causing his windshield to, to break at that time. Barry Gedeus had feared for his life as a result, his life was taken. So we welcome any questions. I don’t know. Really. Do we have any other evidence we wanted to share?
Greeny Valbuena 20:27
Other than the that he’s back on duty? I think that’s pretty relevant. nobody’s been noted, nobody was notified. And it actually happened that the moment when his fiancee was, as she’s a security officer, she was she had to call police officers to escort a lady out of Winn Dixie. And she runs into actually, Robert Morris. Nobody was informed that he was back on duty. She wasn’t told. And she immediately calls the sergeant and whoever is in charge and they tell her, Why did you approach Robert Morris?
Marjorie Cohn 21:08
Excuse me, I would like to swear the witness. What is your name please?
Greeny Valbuena 21:14
Marjorie Cohn 21:15
Greeny Valbuena, do you, do you affirm that your testimony before this commission of inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Greeny Valbuena 21:28
Marjorie Cohn 21:29
You may proceed.
Greeny Valbuena 21:30
Thank you. They read, they, she contacts the the sergeant at the time in charge. And they kind of turned the events around and asked her why she was approaching officer Robert Morris. Clearly she, he came onto the scene after arriving, after a after he had been dispatched. And as soon as she introduces herself to Robert Morris, he immediately covers his body cam. And both officers that arrived to the scene left the scene without even taking care of the reason why they actually arrived. Nobody ever came back. No police. Nobody else from the department. Nobody else from any other department came back to to rectify the situation and the reason why they called the police officers to Winn Dixie on that day, and this happened. I believe it was maybe two weeks ago when when we found this out.
Marjorie Cohn 22:38
Could we take down the video now, please?
Greeny Valbuena 22:40
Marjorie Cohn 22:41
You’re finished? Thank you so much.
Greeny Valbuena 22:43
Marjorie Cohn 22:49
Thank you. Will there be further testimony in your opening statement?
Lee Friedland 23:06
I just wanted to kind of contextually put what happened in Fort Lauderdale. based on our experience of practicing criminal law and doing civil rights cases here. The same investigation, if it was moved to a different community here, would have been handled much differently and much less aggressively. There would not have been the presumption that the person who had done these acts was either violent or posed a threat to the community. Anyone with a basic understanding of either that neighborhood and the nature of what appeared to be even upon review of the 911 tape to be questionable at best as to whether or not the suspect was violent in any way, would not have approached Barry Gedeus, even as a suspect, in such a violent and aggressive manner. If you transpose this event, to Western Broward County and the suburbs, we’re going to have an appropriate investigation where questions are asked and there’s some level of determination as to whether or not the allegations have any merit before an officer goes sprinting through the streets unloading his weapon into somebody.
This happened in part, we believe it is underscored by the fact of who Barry Gedeus is, the community that he lives in and the fact that aggressive policing action was taken against them, because the presumption was that he was guilty. Not just guilty of being a suspect, but guilty as someone who had conducted a violent sexual assault when frankly, the evidence, even at its nascent stage, was questionable at best. We are not suggesting the police should not have investigated the allegation. However, we are suggesting that had the allegation been investigated with fair police work in the way that it should be conducted, Barry Gedeus is not lying dead in March of last year, and the case essentially would never have happened, would have never been prosecuted because there was no case. I think the specter of the label of calling Barry Gedeus some type of sexual assault defendant has colored many aspects of what transpired back in March within the community. Because he was not that, and he certainly wasn’t someone who posed a threat. So we had a lot of labels being foisted on a man ultimately was executed for no reason.
Marjorie Cohn 25:15
Thank you, Mr. Friedland, we are now at the 20 minutes.
Lee Friedland 25:19
Let me point out, I don’t mean to interrupt you. The shots, of course, were in the back. There’s no evidence of front entrance wounds. We should have mentioned this before, no evidence that any of the wounds that Mr. Gedeuss had entered through the front of his body, but rather all the three shots that resulted in his death were all to hit the rear of his body. So we again believe that is a significant factor to establish that he poses no threat to officer Morris and should not have been killed.
Marjorie Cohn 25:51
Anything further, Mr. Friedland?
Lee Friedland 25:53
I appreciate it.
Marjorie Cohn 25:55
Thank you so much. We will now have questions by our commissioners. Commissioner Niikura, would you like to ask questions of the witness please?
Osamu Niikura 26:11
Very simple question. Have, the police officer, the detective, did he have a body camera?
Lee Friedland 26:27
My understanding is that he was, that’s another thing. Thank you for the question. This was not operational. Mr. Morris’s body camera, we were told, was not operational at the time. There is body camera videos of other officers that responded to that.
Osamu Niikura 26:42
Yeah. Body camera evidence, it is available or not?
Lee Friedland 26:49
Not to us. As long as we’re, in our jurisdiction, as long as the grand jury has been impaneled, and the issues have not been heard, we don’t have a right to get a lot of this evidence. And we don’t get it. It’s kept protected until the completion of the criminal aspect.
Osamu Niikura 27:09
Did you try the case?
Lee Friedland 27:13
We tried it? No, we’re preparing. Yeah, we’ve submitted documentation to get it on both public records. And we are filing a civil rights action case and we’re going to subpoena. We do believe that they will seek to protect it under a privilege associated with the grand juries here.
Osamu Niikura 27:29
Lee Friedland 27:30
Marjorie Cohn 27:40
Commissioner Fournier, would you like to question the witness?
Arturo Fournier Facio 27:44
Yes, thank you. Good evening. Attorney Friedland. Yes. You said that there was an occasional encounter with a woman? Did she file any complaint or she made a denounce or called the 911 against Mr. Gedeus?
Lee Friedland 28:07
She did. She ran from the scene, we believe under the influence, I think that’s clearly, yes. And I believe she got on the phone. She called 911. He described a black man with dreadlocks riding a dark bicycle and dark clothing which fit the description and in fact, was our client. She made allegations that she had been assaulted. And as a result of police came to the scene to investigate this assault. She also made allegations that she had a knife, that she used her knife on the the person that had committed the assault. And we do know from our review of the autopsy, we went down and viewed the body that there was no knife, defensive wounds or otherwise visualized on Barry Gedeus’s body. She had a knife during the entirety of the supposed assault. So he, there was no conflict. And that’s one of the reasons that we show the video. We’re not holding Robert Morris to the standard that he should have reviewed the video and understand that there was an allegation. We’re saying that the allegation was on its face so spurious and it should have been investigated more carefully, and hadn’t been investigated carefully, obviously. You know, Barry is not dead. Even Robert Morris. You know, I guess to go out on a little bit of limb here. If Robert Morris isn’t a police officer, given his aggressive past, given the video evidence we have about his aggressiveness as a police officer and how he practices policing. Barry Gedeus is not dead. And the charges of whatever this young lady was going to bring would never have come to light because of the contradictory evidence that was apparent from the very beginning.
Arturo Fournier Facio 29:47
And the officer acted alone, officer Morris, or with somebody else?
Lee Friedland 29:53
As far as we know, he chased Barry down the street. He took out his service weapon and he shot Barry alone. What what happened afterwards in terms of other responding police agencies? We don’t know yet frankly. We’ve done our best to do the recreation we have but until I have the discovery tools that are available in the Civil Rights case, I do have in that respect, one hand tied behind my back.
Arturo Fournier Facio 30:21
You have spoken about the grand jury. He was charged with a murder or, or manslaughter or what?
Lee Friedland 30:34
In Broward County, the grand jury is frequently a tool. Hopefully all police shootings go, There is often enough go before a grand jury, and it’s used as — In research, I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I have spoken, I’ve researched. In my life, I’ve been practicing law for 20 years in South Florida, Miami Dade Palm Beach. I’ve researched police shooting cases in the entirety of my career and there has not been a one single grand jury finding in which a police officer has been indicted for the shooting of a citizen in Broward County. Now, again, whether that happened before my career or at some point, the grand jury is a political tool used here to whitewash abuses to the minority community. We for, I don’t want to get, you know, into sort of the political undercurrents of what we deal with here, we had a state attorney who Mike Sacks, who’s no longer state attorney who every single police case, he would personally prosecute. So we there was a environment here that was is and was very protective of police actions. And that’s what was evidenced, is being evidenced in the investigation associated with Barry Gedeus.
Arturo Fournier Facio 31:46
So he was discharged by the grand jury.
Lee Friedland 31:50
They have not been able to impanel grand juries here due to COVID. So they’ve put off grand jury, we haven’t had any – This issue has not gone before a grand jury,
Arturo Fournier Facio 32:01
So he has not been indicted. Or he hasn’t been tried.
Lee Friedland 32:08
Yeah, we haven’t had, no he has not.
Arturo Fournier Facio 32:11
No. All right. Were there any witnesses at that moment? Apart from, from what the neighbors heard.
Lee Friedland 32:22
We have not identified any eyewitnesses at the moment of shooting, only witnesses after the shooting who took videotape of Barry lying dead.
Arturo Fournier Facio 32:32
And was what the attitude of the police department? Were you able to obtain any cooperation or facility from them?
Lee Friedland 32:41
Now we were resisted at every step with a number of public records requests, legal FOIA requests, all the types of requests we use to get even the most basic information. Now I will say this, the FDLE, who investigates police shootings in Florida, have a liaison that has been contacting our office, then meet with our clients, also the lead attorney for FDLE reached out to me. Now these types of dialogues are not very productive, because it’s more of a dialogue of us providing what evidence we have. And of course, because it’s an ongoing police investigation, they share nothing with us relative the investigation. We were shocked when we learned that Robert Morris was back on duty and patrolling the streets of Fort Lauderdale. If not, for this case for this history of violence, we should at least try and question his ability to make sound judgments when policing the community in Fort Lauderdale.
Arturo Fournier Facio 33:43
So he’s back on duty on his same job, the same kind of no change at all.
Lee Friedland 33:48
As far as we know, nothing . As Ms Valbuena indicated he’s back. The Alexis her fiance, works, his fiance was working in private security and Robert Morris came there and there was a discussion and we know that he’s back patrolling. We only have 15 minutes, so there are videos, snippets of videos that have been provided by individuals in the community of officer Morris’s interactions with the citizenry and and how he views his job. And we believe that those videos as well as his history of reaction and overreaction to situations associated with the job, putting him in the position where he essentially executed Barry Gedeus because he believed him to be the sexual predator. And because it is effort to apprehend somebody he assumed and was some sort of inherent evil, struck him with his car, chased him down and shot him dead.
Arturo Fournier Facio 34:53
Was there any other litigation by the family like a civil case?
Lee Friedland 34:59
We are the civil lawyers for that purpose, we do some civil rights cases, we have been retained, we, of course, did not want to get in the way of an ongoing police investigation, or a police investigation be tainted by the concept of some sort of financial gain. But as we’ve gone down the road and the police investigation is stalled. We think our remedy is going to be in federal court, which we have a complaint and we’re preparing to file.
Arturo Fournier Facio 35:25
You also said that he alleged that his body camera was malfunctioning. What was there a possibility of taking the camera to a technician? And check out if it is true, or just a pretext?
Lee Friedland 35:44
Yes, there is. But that would have been handled by the FDLE investigators who were evaluating how, my hands are tied. And my strength as an attorney is obviously as you know, is my subpoena power, and you know, FOIA requests. But my ability is to subpoena and or get into court, and with the rules as they exist for civil rights cases in our jurisdiction, and nationally, we can’t we couldn’t file our case, until only recently. And now we’re filing as soon as we can. Now once I get that subpoena power, the types of things you’re talking about, what I’ll be empowered with now, probably, I would guess, the opportunity to gather that evidence has probably passed. As to whether there had been some tampering or whether it’s legitimate, we just know that he is asserting that there was no body cam at all.
Arturo Fournier Facio 36:35
Do you know, if the officer alleged that he read the Miranda rights to to Mr. Gedeus before shooting?
Lee Friedland 36:46
We’re sure that that didn’t happen based on the scenario of at least what’s displayed on the video that’s been discussed with us, and what the witnesses have indicated. We we know that it’s, I think, what is legendary with this officer, I don’t know if I’ve sort of highlighted enough in my presentation is not just the number of 84 complaints of use of force, but the individual incidents that are out of line in terms of how he engages in this policing, and we think there was no Miranda, there was no, no one in the area heard anything other than shots being fired in the back of Mr. Gedeus.
Arturo Fournier Facio 37:27
Was there any internal investigation within the force?
Lee Friedland 37:33
Ultimately, although we haven’t been provided, they do their internal investigation, which will be subject to a public records request and information after we file our case. And then they determine what, you know, we, we have not heard, frankly, the version of what Robert Morris, he says occurred during the struggle, so that we can, you know, hold it up to the scrutiny of an attorney in the light of day, we’ll know. We know he’s back working. So that would indicate some process was completed.
Arturo Fournier Facio 38:03
So how do you find about the 84 other cases?
Lee Friedland 38:10
It was requested, we got his personnel file, we got a little idea of his background, given his use of force reports and issues, IA complaints and other things that might be in his background. So we, they gave that to us. And we that’s how we were able to uncover a lot of these individual actions where officer Morris was, was acting in an aggressive fashion in the course of his policing.
Arturo Fournier Facio 38:36
So apart from his personnel file, what other record access was followed to you to your representation?
Lee Friedland 38:47
We got personnel file, use of force data. And then the other information we’re able to gather was through the limited media coverage that we received down here. We spoke to family members of individuals in that community that had been subject to his, his policing. We also were able to investigate the circumstance of that 2008 shooting of Timothy Brown, and reach out and speak to family members of Mr. Brown with regard to the grand jury process that transpired back then, whether or not Mr. Brown was was armed during the course of the interaction with Mr., with Mr. Morris. So that essentially is the scope. We also have our own investigators who went out into the community and asked questions at what time officers worked for, and I’m going to get the term wrong. There was a jump out unit in which they were supposed to aggressively be involved in interdiction in the community. A lot of these programs that we’re hearing recently, that are being rolled back in communities because of the inherent hostility that they create with the communities that they’re policing. He was involved directly in that type of unit, and when you see him and the way he interacts with the community, you can see he’s infused with the concept. As I said earlier in my presentation of the us versus them mentality, it drips from him as an individual thing. And it’s also clear that the Fort Lauderdale police department is not doing anything to control him, because of the number of incidents, and we’re talking about an officer who continues to get put back on the street, in circumstances where he can do harm to others.
Arturo Fournier Facio 40:28
Now that you spoke about media, how do you feel how do you assess the participation of the media, the media coverage?
Lee Friedland 40:37
We ran into some initial problems because this occurred before George Floyd. And during the initial parts of the pandemic, as it was emerging here, so the shooting happens in on March 8. And then the country and the story, the local media coverage, which is primarily what covers these events, gets involved in a lot of stories associated with COVID throughout the community. We had a very difficult time initially getting any coverages with the shooting. As the national circumstance obviously changed, and these sort of shootings came to light throughout, in multiple jurisdictions. We started getting some media coverage, the local channels, we got some newspaper coverage, the New Times reached out and they were very valuable in providing us with information and leads associated with with officer Morris and other people in the community that have dealt with him. So it was helpful, but it didn’t happen immediately for us.
Arturo Fournier Facio 41:45
Was there any participation of the police union, or just a police department.
Lee Friedland 41:54
The, union has not been resistant in any way to our efforts to gather information in the case. It’s just been Fort Lauderdale Police Department has been sort of obstructionist in the sense that they are protecting one of their own and continue to put him back on the street. That’s the part that baffles the family. And us even more. I mean, the cold-hearted nature of this, the shooting, the fact our client was unarmed, the fact that you add to the history of this particular officer, which is very clear. Well, it’s his ability to do his job, even if you believe, even if the police department doesn’t believe in our ability to prove under the legal standard, that there was an excessive use of force, which we think is clear. He’s clearly not fit to be an officer patrolling the communities that he’s in.
Arturo Fournier Facio 42:49
In another case that we attended to there was a recognition and apology by the police department regarding the law enforcement misconduct. Was anything of the sort, which in this case?
Lee Friedland 43:05
Arturo Fournier Facio 43:09
One last question. Ms. Greeny Valbuena, are you a lawyer or you were a witness?
Greeny Valbuena 43:19
No, I’m an attorney. Lee Friedland’s associate.
Arturo Fournier Facio 43:24
All right, madam. Thanks.
Greeny Valbuena 43:26
Arturo Fournier Facio 43:27
I think that will be all for the moment. Of course, there are many, many other things that come to my my head. I don’t know if Professor Niikura wants to ask a further question.
Osamu Niikura 43:39
Yeah, yeah. May I ask some more question about, more question about, do you have any knowledge about what kind of training and normal protocol police officers receive, especially in the case of an attack?
Lee Friedland 44:03
We know that they attend police academy training here locally, in which they’re trained on the use of force protocols, that we certainly would be happy to provide you all. I don’t know if you received them in the context of your other evaluation of other police shootings. But there is a use of force policy of which officers like Robert Morris are supposed to be trained in terms of how, when and where to use it. We know that there have been, one of the obstructions that we’ve received in this case, now there have been changes to this policy over the years, and we don’t know for sure whether there were any changes enacted during the timeframe of the assault and the death of Barry Gedeus. But they’re trained on these policies, supposedly, and officer Morris will have to answer to his training when we have the opportunity to. Sorry?
Osamu Niikura 44:54
And did he follow the policy?
Lee Friedland 44:57
Not in our estimation. We believe that there has to be some use or legitimate fear on behalf of the officer that the fleeing suspect poses a threat to person or property, significant threat to person. And we feel very clearly based on what we’ve learned of the video evidence that Barry Gedeus did not pose a threat to anyone. He was merely actually, what Officer Morris did to him with his car, he was essentially running from his, for his life from the overzealous actions of the officer.
Arturo Fournier Facio 45:34
Something else, excuse me from the human point of view. Did Mr. Gedeus have any family and how was his family informed about what has happened?
Lee Friedland 45:47
He had, his fiance is on the call. He had a his, his brother and his family. I think they were supposed to be on the call, we originally scheduled, we believed to be at nine. But we we tried to get everyone here so that they could have an opportunity because at any opportunity, they have to have the. Well, I believe they’re here — any opportunity to have an airing of something so tragic that happened to them, they get a great deal of satisfaction. So I know they would want me to reflect that how appreciative they are.
Greeny Valbuena 46:23
Lee I’m sorry, I believe they’re actually on they’re just, we can’t see them. But I think that they’re like, participants.
Lee Friedland 46:31
They were in shock when they learned and what happened mostly court losing someone so young, but also because of the persona or the character of Barry, of which they were familiar, which you know, I use the term earlier, mild mannered. I mean, he was a, a sweet man who was engaged to. His fiance is here. And when she learned I mean, she’s been a driving force in this case since the beginning when she learned what happened to gather a lot of the initial evidence with the neighbors. But before we even got on the case, she created a vigil for him on an area in that lot to to memorialize what happened there. She’s walked the neighborhood. She’s been hungry for answers since the beginning. And that’s what I know the whole family continues to desire in the case. And of course, Justice for him and what transpired.
Marjorie Cohn 47:25
We have two minutes remaining in the hearing, and I want to give my condolences to the family members of Barry Gedeus. We’re very sorry for your loss.
Pooja Gehi 47:38
Oh, hi. I’m, hi. I appreciate all of you. I messed up the time. And I wonder if we could promote the family for two minutes. We have two minutes. Okay. Charlotte did it. Thank you. And thank you, Lee.
Lee Friedland 47:54
Lee Friedland 47:58
Well, it’s all right. We’re here for you what, you gave us the opportunity. So thank you for letting us do it. And I appreciate everybody, you guys all the work you’re doing. And with all those papers and books behind you. I know you got a lot more work to do. So I appreciate everything, guys.
Pooja Gehi 48:15
Thank you. And maybe we could go to like, I don’t know, I know this is very strict, but maybe we can go to like 7:55 Eastern Charlotte, what do you think?
Charlotte Kates 48:35
Professor Cohn, Marjorie, the rapporteur, can handle any time changes that are taking place, but I did want to just allow Ms. Ross, if if you’re on and you want to unmute or turn your video on.
Alexis Ross 48:53
Marjorie Cohn 48:59
What is your name please?
Alexis Ross 49:01
Marjorie Cohn 49:02
And do you promise that your testimony before the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Alexis Ross 49:10
Marjorie Cohn 49:11
Okay, please please make any comments you like
Alexis Ross 49:15
I’m just to make a comment on the question, how the family felt or how did the family find out from. The police about I believe, the family said sometime in the morning to two o’clock one o’clock in the morning, the police two officers came to their door and said that Barry Gedeus was, got into an altercation with his girlfriend, which is me and I was at work and the police came to arrest him and he’s dead. They gave the family a cards and they left. That’s just, that’s just not a way to let someone know that their son or their loved one is deceased, is not with us anymore. And I just a very important detail that I wish Mr. Friedland would have mentioned. Barry Gedeus, he gave me a call around eight o’clock at night. And he told me that he was he was headed to Walmart to get groceries. When the next morning when I found out that he was dead, through a Facebook post that his brother posted. I went to the scene where were they say that someone, someone had been shot by the police, I went to the scene. And his blood was still fresh there, I could literally put my hand and his blood was on my hand. Not too far, not even, not even a yard from where his blood was, there was a Walmart bag. The Walmart bag had no tores, no rips, no dirt stains or anything on it, just Barry’s just blood on the bag. And next to that Walmart bag that had blood on it was the paramedic, a little baggie where they use the gloves and the kind of things that perform CPR. And that’s just what really got me really puzzled like I don’t know.
Lee Friedland 51:24
I think what she’s trying to say, is we have yet to be able to determine and we’ve tried to get security videos from the Walmart, if he ever made it to the Walmart or or not, what are the circumstances that led him to unfortunately be in the alley in the first place.
Alexis Ross 51:41
And I want to add one more thing. The house this next to where Barry Gedeus died, it has cameras. I was told by the gentleman, the gentleman that lives in the house and another gentleman that lives next door to the house. They have Barry Gedeus’s body lying there. They call down specialist technicians to go inside this man’s house and and take his with his video cameras or to make sure it wasn’t working because he said that he just had the cameras there for visually, they didn’t record. He had specialists come to the house to make sure that his videos didn’t work. So what are you trying to hide? Your body cam didn’t work. If it was a video that could tell what happened, you had someone come in and rip those systems out. What are you trying to hide?
Marjorie Cohn 52:45
Thank you Ms. Ross. We appreciate your testimony and are so sorry for the loss of your fiance. This concludes the hearing in the case of Barry Gedeus. The hearing in the case of Travis Crane will resume at the top of the hour thank you to all the witnesses.
Lee Friedland 53:02
Thank you ladies and gentlemen. appreciate everything.
Greeny Valbuena 53:05