New Records Shed Light on Shooting of Black Man by Fort Lauderdale Cop

Barry Gedeus (center) was shot to death by Fort Lauderdale police Officer Robert Morris.
Barry Gedeus (center) was shot to death by Fort Lauderdale police Officer Robert Morris. Photo by Alexis Ross
A new cellphone video shows the moments that followed the fatal shooting of Barry Gedeus, the 27-year-old unarmed Black man who was killed by a Fort Lauderdale police officer in March.

The low-quality footage, filmed by a neighbor on the evening of March 8, was provided to New Times by Lee Friedland, the attorney for Gedeus family. The video shows two police officers standing over a figure on the ground obscured by car headlights. One officer seems to be rendering aid while the other steps around, assessing the scene.

"That's fucked up. They done killed that man," a man is heard saying in the background. "Go live on they ass."

"I am live," a woman's voice replies.

Blue and red lights flash across the screen as the two voices tally the number of gunshots they heard. The man says it was five shots. The woman insists it was more.

"I don't even know what they shot him for," the man says. "That's what I wanna know."

The footage is one of few pieces of video evidence released thus far from the night Gedeus was shot dead by Officer Robert Morris of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. Friedland says he has spent months reviewing the limited footage that's available, attempting to piece together the sequence of events.

Fort Lauderdale police have said Gedeus was a suspect in a sexual battery reported earlier that evening. But over the past few months, Friedland and Gedeus' family have questioned whether Gedeus was the man police were looking for. Their doubts have been heightened by the description of the suspect that was initially broadcast, and by the authorities' continued silence.

After nearly four months of investigating, the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) has concluded that DNA evidence links Gedeus to the alleged sexual battery. According to a BSO report obtained by New Times, detectives concluded that Gedeus engaged in non-consensual sex with a woman hours before his death.

In the victim's testimony, she told police that Gedeus "kicked and pushed her to the ground prior to unlawfully penetrating her anus with his penis."

New Times reached out to the victim but was unable to get in touch.

Regardless of what transpired between Gedeus and the woman, Friedland doesn't believe Gedeus deserved to be shot dead afterward by an officer he calls "overzealous" and "quick-tempered." Gedeus, he says, was only a suspect at the time. He also was unarmed.

Officer Morris "chased [Gedeus] and shot him unarmed in a vacant lot like an animal. There was no justification," Friedland writes to New Times in an email. "He was unarmed and presented no danger to anyone."

Friedland says his last conversations with the lead investigator of the shooting were back in April. The case is being handled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).

Reached by email, an FDLE spokesperson told New Times the agency is still investigating the shooting and has no updates at this time.
Barry Gedeus (center) was shot to death by Fort Lauderdale police Officer Robert Morris. - PHOTO BY ALEXIS ROSS
Barry Gedeus (center) was shot to death by Fort Lauderdale police Officer Robert Morris.
Photo by Alexis Ross

Racial disparities in force and complaints

Recently obtained records from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department (FLPD) show that Morris, the officer who shot Gedeus, has used force on 101 people during his 14 years with the department — 77 percent of whom were Black. They also show that of the 33 citizen complaints filed against Morris over those years, 28 have been from Black people. (Three were from white people, and two don't list the complainant's race.)

When asked if there was an explanation for the racial disparities, FLPD Det. Ali Adamson wrote in an email to New Times that prior to the March incident, Morris was assigned to the K-9 Apprehension Unit, which required him to respond to high-priority incidents across the city where suspects were "typically outstanding."

She declined to answer follow-up requests for comment, referring a reporter back to her previous email.

Morris' internal-affairs report, previously obtained by New Times, shows that he has been cleared 82 times for using force since joining the department in 2008. (Several of those incidents involved more than one subject.)

Friedland says the officer's record is troubling.

"Despite the fact that Officer Morris was 'cleared' of wrongdoing in these incidents it is clear he readily attacks and views his role as exterminating the 'bad' guys," Friedland writes via email. "Barry Gedeus unfortunately fit the bill on that March evening."

After speaking with other residents who've previously dealt with Morris and reviewing footage of past encounters, Friedland says, he believes Morris targets members of minority communities with "aggressive policing tactics."

The Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The FLPD has come under heightened scrutiny in recent weeks as footage has surfaced of officers roughing up protesters and other civilians during the recent spate of social-justice demonstrations. On June 23, Police Chief Rick Maglione released two new videos capturing other incidents in which Steven Pohorence, the officer recently charged with battery for pushing a kneeling Black Lives Matter protester, had used force this year.

As a result of the findings, the FLPD announced in a news conference that its internal-affairs department will now start to review body-worn camera footage in addition to the use-of-force reports written by police. Until now, reviewing the camera footage wasn't required.

"Our review of every use of force by an officer used to just include a review of the written police reports, whether or not a complaint was received, and now it is going to include a comprehensive review of all associated body-worn camera footage," Maglione said.

The body-worn camera footage from the March shooting of Gedeus has yet to be released, with the FLPD citing the open investigation. New Times has requested body-worn camera footage from several incidents in which the department cleared Morris in incidents where he reported using force.

In 2013, Morris was placed on a Brady list after being investigated for allegations of excessive use of force. Brady lists — records kept by state prosecutors across the U.S that carry the names of officers deemed dishonest or untrustworthy — are also sometimes referred to as "do-not-subpoena lists."

According to a 2019 investigation in USA Today, many troubled officers whose names are on the lists still end up working and testifying in criminal trials.
click to enlarge The dead-end street where a woman says she was raped by a man she knew as "Dookie." - SCREENSHOT VIA GOOGLE MAPS
The dead-end street where a woman says she was raped by a man she knew as "Dookie."
Screenshot via Google Maps

March 8 sexual battery

A recent report from the Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) details why Fort Lauderdale police were interested in speaking with Gedeus on the evening of March 8. Earlier that night, a woman said she was walking alone in the Franklin Park neighborhood when she was approached by a man she only knew as "Dookie." The report notes that the two were talking about "chilling and what they wanted to do to each other" when Dookie offered her a certain amount of money to hang out longer. Eventually, they agreed to walk to his house.

According to the report, the woman said that once they arrived at a point near Sistrunk Boulevard and NW 24th Avenue, she heard a dog barking and pulled a box cutter from her purse to protect herself. She said Dookie believed the knife was intended for him and grabbed her hand and began, wrestling with her over the box cutter. She said she accidentally cut Dookie's finger during the scuffle.

She recounted that Dookie said, "See man you done cut me... it's alright, it's alright, it's alright," and wrapped his bleeding finger with his shirt. He then walked in the direction of a nearby dead end and told her to follow. She said she complied out of fear.

The woman told police she threw down the box cutter. The police report notes that it's "unknown where she threw the knife nor why she didn't flee, seeing that she had possession of the box cutter."

Once at the dead end, she told police, the man "forced her to the ground, took his penis out and penetrated her anus while on the ground." The victim also noted that while this was occurring, a truck pulled up beside them and began to dump brush and debris at the dead end.

She said she made eye contact with the driver, who didn't react.

According to the report, a detective asked the woman during the investigation: "You weren't against hooking up or having sex or anything like that?" to which she replied that she wasn't against it but she didn't "want him to take it from me." She said the man had stolen $140 from her.

When asked how he was able to keep her on the ground, the woman told police that Dookie kept her in a chokehold. She also said that while he was assaulting her, he pulled out "some drugs from wherever," but she wasn't sure what type of drugs they were.

The report notes that the woman consented to a rape kit following the incident, and a crime lab report later showed that Gedeus' DNA matched the sperm.

Friedland, the Gedeus family's attorney, maintains that Gedeus' interaction with the victim was consensual. He points out what he believes to be inconsistencies in the woman's story, such as the fact that she told police she was raped anally, yet a vaginal swab was submitted with her rape kit.

"That's a mystery that we'll explore as soon as we have subpoena power, which hopefully will happen," Friedland tells New Times. "If I was going to engage in conjecture at this point, based on what we know, I would think that there was some sort of consensual-sexual-financial thing going on there."

Friedland says that until FDLE completes its investigation, his hands are tied in terms of obtaining certain evidence. But once the state reaches a conclusion, Friedland hopes he and Gedeus' family will begin to receive the answers they've been seeking.
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Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca