DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – The family of a student who was left with a “permanent total disability” after a shooting at a Raines High School football game in 2018 is taking its fight against former Duval County Public Schools police chief Micheal Edwards and the Duval County School Board to federal court.
The family of Khlayah Wright sued the district in circuit court in 2019 but filed an updated federal lawsuit last week in the wake of a scathing grand jury report accusing Edwards of “overt fraud” after it said he failed to report and respond to thousands of crimes from 2016 to 2019. The family said the grand jury report supports their case.
READ: Family’s updated lawsuit after grand jury report
Their lawsuit claims Edwards stopped a DCPS officer from arresting Robert Howard and Joerod Adams after a fight broke out between the two at a football game in 2018.
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Both Howard and Adams were removed from the stadium, but the suit claims Edwards intervened and told officers not to arrest or charge the two with trespassing. Shortly after letting the teens go, Howard returned to the stadium with a gun and shot Adams, killing him.
Wright and another person were wounded in the gunfire. Wright was shot in the foot and released from the hospital the night of the shooting.
The shooting was considered gang-related, and Wright’s family says police knew that and should have done more to protect the people on campus.
They argue nothing was done because Edwards facilitated a system of not reporting crimes in schools to make them seem safer.
The grand jury report, released last month, said school law enforcement engaged in the “intentional mislabeling and underreporting of criminal activity in Florida’s public schools” to make the district appear safer.
Several Police Operational Procedure Orders said Edwards directed officers to specifically not report incidents of battery on a school official as an actual crime, the suit claims.
Wright’s family says Edwards’ failure to arrest Howard and Adams after the 2018 fight created a dangerous environment at the football game which was the proximate cause of Wright’s injury.
A former Duval County School Police Officer and a witness who was there that night both said more could have been done.
Andre Ellis captured cellphone video of the pandemonium and chaos the night of the shooting, and while he’s not associated with the case or lawsuit, he said, in his opinion, Duval School Police officers struggled to maintain the peace that night.
“I’m a former police officer myself, so we always have to be proactive and not reactive, and I think, in that moment, it was more of a reaction,” Ellis said.
Former Duval School Police Officer John Hardin, who’s worked under Edwards and is named in the lawsuit, said it was common for the chief to downplay student crimes.
“It was a leadership issue. I believe there was just a culture of ‘look the other way,’” Hardin said. “My understanding of it is they wanted to keep the numbers down so that it didn’t show that we were out arresting the students. I think it painted an appearance of the schools being much safer than they really were.”
Neither the school district nor Micheal Edwards’ attorney has commented about the federal lawsuit.