Detailing the arrest of football player Brian Edwards: Mental health check, hostile teammates, campus chase
The CMU defensive back was arraigned on felony and misdemeanor charges, which were later dropped
Two Central Michigan University Police officers entered the East Complex residential restaurant, known as Fresh Food Company, on Nov. 25 in search of Brian Edwards.
Officer Sarah Cuthbertson remembers hearing plenty of yelling. Those loud voices belonged to members of the Central Michigan football team.
Edwards, 21, was their teammate. He was fleeing from CMUPD.
"Fuck the police," a few of the players shouted at officers in the dining hall, according to a police report obtained by Central Michigan Life through the Freedom of Information Act.
When Cuthbertson asked one football player to move out of the way, he turned around, looked at her and said: "Fuck you."
Cuthbertson, who was alongside officer Josh Chapman, continued her pursuit and found other officers struggling with Edwards. He was eventually placed in handcuffs and taken to the Isabella County Jail. Edwards was arraigned on felony and misdemeanor charges.
"On the way to jail, he would not tell us his name and kept telling us he did nothing wrong," Cuthbertson said in the police report.
Those charges were dropped by Isabella County prosecuting attorney David Barberi, who said the arrest was "undoubtedly valid" and the felony and misdemeanor charges completely "fit by the textbook standards."
"Upon further review of the facts of the case, and the underlying issues and events occurring prior to the arrest, this is a matter best handled outside the criminal justice system," Barberi said.
What the Athletics Department is doing to help Edwards after his confrontation with police is unclear. Months before his transfer to CMU from Florida, Edwards was arrested for a first-degree misdemeanor battery charge in May 2019.
It’s also unclear what the athletics department did following the incident in Fresh Food Company which ended with, according to the police report, CMUPD officers pointing tasers at the football players.
Edwards did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Athletic director Michael Alford and coach Jim McElwain also declined to comment for this story.
"On the subject of Brian Edwards, any comment on this situation should come from CMU Police and the Isabella Prosecutors Office," Associate AD for Sport Administration and Communications Rob Wyman wrote in an email.
It seems no one wants to discuss the incident that happened just 13 days before the Chippewas played in the Mid-American Conference championship game, a 26-21 loss to Miami (Ohio), at Ford Field in Detroit.
Police respond to welfare check
Officers Mark Smoker and Ryan Root arrived to speak with Edwards on Nov. 25 after two witnesses called CMUPD, telling them that the student was using profanity and yelling, according to the police report. He was displaying "possibly suicidal" actions near the south side of the Education and Human Services building near Sweeney Hall.
One of the callers said he did not want to approach Edwards "in fear of his mental status.” Another caller added that he was going through an "emotional meltdown" and "needed professional help."
Edwards stood on the phone in the middle of Ojibway Court. He wore a baseball hat, gray sweatshirt and was carrying a backpack.
"He sounded to be very agitated and yelling that he was trying to get someone back on his phone to talk to them," Smoker said in the police report.
Smoker and Root attempted to speak with him. Multiple attempts later, Edwards told officers he was OK.
Smoker said they just wanted to check on his well-being.
"He continued yelling and wandering and started to walk away, but then realized he dropped his earbuds," Smoker said in the report. "I retrieved his earbuds from the grass and gave them back to him in hopes of trying to get him to speak with us."
Edwards began walking away from them. That's when Sgt. Wayne Umholtz arrived.
"I observed the male subject walking in my direction on the sidewalk with Root and Smoker behind him," Umholtz said in the report. "The male then started to run past the passenger side of my patrol vehicle."
Running away from police, toward teammates
Edwards ran east toward Fresh Food Company, where his football teammates were eating dinner after practice.
Since Umholtz had just arrived, he didn't know who Edwards was, why he was running from the police or if he had a weapon. Umholtz called for "priority back-up," which is an urgent request that requires a rapid police response. He also yelled at Edwards to stop running.
Once Edwards got inside Fabiano Hall, he ran down a hallway and into the dining hall – where Umholtz estimates there were 500 students and staff present.
"I was very concerned he might harm (students) in his attempt to elude us," Umholtz stated in the police report.
Umholtz lost sight of Edwards in an area were 20-30 football players were eating dinner. Root followed closely behind but tripped and fell. Chapman and Cuthbertson were also searching for Edwards.
"The men were making comments about so many officers being there for 'one guy,'” Cuthbertson said in the report. “A few of them were saying, 'Fuck the police.'"
Smoker and officer Carl Williams dashed through The Market convenience store and to the scene. Smoker said in the police report he attempted to diffuse the situation between officers and football players "as they were agitated and yelling at officers."
Confrontation at campus dining hall
Edwards was nowhere to be found.
Officers tracked his last known path – leading to where members of the football team were sitting. Then, Root noticed Edwards walking away from his teammates toward the main dining hall door. Edwards had pulled his sweatshirt over his head in an attempt to conceal his face.
"Officer Root and I then told (Edwards) to stop, but he refused and walked away faster," Umholtz mentioned in the report.
When Root made contact with Edwards' arm and pushed him against the glass door, the football player became tense, the report said. Root reported that he told Edwards several times to stop resisting and calm down, but he did not comply.
Some of the football players gathered around Umholtz and Root – as close as two feet away –while they attempted to detain Edwards.
"The crowd had us pinned up against the wall of the entrance to the dining hall," Umholtz said in the police report. "I told the crowd to get back numerous times, but no one complied.
"I was very concerned about Root's and my safety."
Surrounded by at least 20 football players, Umholtz wasn't sure if they were going to engage in a physical altercation.
"We had not done a search for weapons of (Edwards) at the time," Umholtz said in the report. “I was concerned there might be a weapon on him or in the backpack. Someone in the crowd had picked up the backpack, which caused me to worry for our safety and the innocent students in the area."
That's when Umholtz stepped in front of Edwards, removed his Taser and pointed it at Edwards' lower abdomen. He threatened to tase Edwards if he continued to resist.
"Slowly, (Edwards) allowed Root to handcuff him," Umholtz said in the report.
Several football players approached the officers.
Umholtz pointed his Taser at the football players and threatened them with arrest while Root maintained his hold on Edwards.
"The subjects then took a step back, but continued to yell at us," Umholtz said in the report.
Edwards continued to resist. Umholtz said the officers had to put Edwards in an "escort armbar" to get him to comply. Edwards was put in Chapman's police vehicle, where he was driven by Chapman and Cuthbertson to the Isabella County Jail.
Root had "several large scrapes" to the back of his right hand and his uniform was torn in several places, according to police records. He was treated at McLaren Central Michigan hospital and released.
There were no team suspensions announced by McElwain following the incident.
Several of Roots' items were damaged while arresting Edwards, including a long sleeve base shirt ($55.50), armor skin vest carrier ($87.50), name bar ($12.50), pants ($99.50) and cuff case ($25.50), totaling $280.50.
Edwards booked in county jail
As jail staff made contact with Edwards, he was immediately confrontational, according to the police report. When asked to remove his shoes, he began fighting with three officers at the jail.
Edwards had to be taken to the ground in the altercation.
"The booking process could not be completed because (Edwards) would not cooperate with them," Cuthbertson said in the report.
CMUPD recommended the jail staff monitor Edwards closely.
An $8,000 personal bond was posted, which stated Edwards had to appear at future court dates. He did not have to post bail but would have been forced to forfeit the bond amount if he broke his promise to appear in court. Three days after his arrest, Edwards was allowed to travel to his hometown in Florida for Thanksgiving.
The charges, which were issued by an Isabella County assistant prosecutor, were dropped by Barberi, the prosecutor in the case. He praised the CMUPD's efforts.
"The actions of CMU police were warranted and helped diffuse the situation quickly," Barberi said. "It was only after giving careful consideration to the information provided to us after the arrest that we were able to make the determination that moving forward with a criminal case was not the most appropriate route to take."
Since his arrest, Barberi said that Edwards has taken steps through the "appropriate channels" to seek treatment for the "underlying issues" that led to his behavior.
The case officially closed Dec. 12.
Before his arrest in November 2019, Edwards was arrested for first-degree misdemeanor battery of his girlfriend on May 6, 2019. He spent time at the Alachua County Jail in Gainesville, Florida, but the charges were dropped.
In that case, Edwards' girlfriend told police she did not want to prosecute him, according to police records. A report stated Edwards' girlfriend of two years had marks on her neck and a scratch on her shoulder upon the officer's arrival to the scene.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound defensive back played in 18 games on defense and special teams for Florida throughout two seasons, of which one was in 2017 for McElwain.
He did not play in the 2019 season for Central Michigan due to NCAA transfer rules.
Minimal response from McElwain
When Alford was contacted the night of Edwards’ arrest for a comment, he acknowledged the altercation.
“We are aware of an incident on campus this evening,” Alford said, “but it is an ongoing investigation with the CMU Police Department, and we cannot comment any further.”
Since the investigation closed, Central Michigan Life reached out once again to Alford for a further comment. He declined the request.
McElwain didn’t have much to say about the night of Edwards' arrest. He didn't mention the involvement of others on the team.
“I know that, from what I understand, everything was dropped,” McElwain, who declined to comment in a later interview request, said in December 2019. “He’s still with us.”
Following Edwards' arrest, a mandatory football team meeting was called for 8 p.m. by Director of Operations Ben Presnell. Practice ended around 5:30 p.m.
When asked about Edwards’ arrest in May for battery, McElwain didn't elaborate on the situation.
“He was cleared of everything and reinstated at his last place,” McElwain said, even though Edwards never played another game for the Gators and entered the NCAA transfer portal just one month later.
McElwain recruited Edwards, from Miramar High School in Hollywood, Florida, to play for the Gators while serving as the head coach from 2015-17. He transferred to CMU in August 2019.
“One thing I always tell every one of the kids I recruit is, ‘I’m here for you, and I’ll do everything I can to help you,'" McElwain said.