Eddie Bridges was beaten last spring by a Georgia cop. He later died.
The beating happened in April of this year. Police officer Michael Middleton was responding to a loitering call at Wheatley Plaza in Americus. That's where the officer confronted Eddie Bridges. Some witnesses say Bridges tossed a fruit drink can at the officer who then punched him hard in the eye.
Americus Police Chief James Green showed photos of Bridges’ eye to the Times-Recorder that were taken immediately after the altercation.
Bridges’ eye was badly swollen and protruding from its socket. The eyeball was about the size of a plum and bloody around the perimeter. Green said he was a little stunned when saw Bridges’ eye.
“Middleton told me he hit him with a lot of force,” said Green.
People in the community say they will not forget Eddie Bridges. "His smile was so bright and he was a very kind hearted person. He never bothered anyone," said Americus Resident Gloria West.
Jo Ann Dodson has managed the Goodwill Store in Americus for six years.
She formed a special relationship with Eddie Bridges, saying he bought toys and bikes for children.
"It upset me that he went through what he went through and it upset me of course that it ended up in his death and I miss him still sometimes because I'm use to him being here. He never did anything to hurt anyone," Dodson told WTVW in Columbus, Georgia.
Dodson told another TV news reporter, "He was unable to work you know so he would just come and help people out."
Yesterday was a day his friends, family, and community publicly remembered him. The Prison and Jail Project organized a march Monday in Americus, Georgia on what would have been Eddie's 56th birthday to again call attention to what happened to him one evening in central Georgia.
The following is from the Americus Times Recorder (Georgia).
Protests held on Bridges’ birthday by the P&JP
The birthday of the late Eddie Bridges — who would have been 56 Monday — was observed with protests against the alleged police brutality that Bridges suffered that some believe caused his death.
The Prison & Jail Project (P&JP) and its executive director John Cole Vodicka organized one protest at the Municipal Building Monday morning and another in front of the Public Safety Building on South Lee Street Monday afternoon. A candlelight vigil in Bridges’ memory was planned for later that evening.
Bridges died in June from a seizure disorder, according to the autopsy report from the State Crime Lab. In April, Bridges was involved in a physical altercation with Americus Police Officer Michael Middleton, who attempted to arrest Bridges for vagrancy. It was later learned that Bridges was not one of the vagrants harassing customers in the Goodwill shopping center where the altercation occurred.
Middleton had been placed on administrative leave from the Americus Police Department; but, he was allowed to return to work, the Times-Recorder later learned.
Although the autopsy determined Bridges’ death was from “natural causes,” some believe that his death was due to the beating he allegedly suffered at the hands of Middleton. Police photos taken of Bridges’ injuries show that his eye was damaged.
The protesters were holding up signs which said, “Happy Birthday, Eddie Bridges ... We wish you were here,” and “Stop Brutal Cops ... Fire Middleton.”
“This is directed towards police departments across America: what is the life of 14-year-old Martha Lee Anderson worth in Panama City, Fla.? What is the life of Kenneth Walker worth in Columbus, Ga.? What is the life of Eddie Bridges worth in Americus, Ga.? You can kill a dog and go to jail, as in Michael Vick’s case, but you can kill a black man and nothing is done,” said Eugene Edge Jr., of the National Unity of Blackmen in America (N.U.B.I.A.), one of the protesters at the rally.
Americus Police Chief James Green said of the protests, “I would like to clear up that it was not a beating; it was an altercation. We’re waiting for the Grand Jury to finalize things.
“I support my officers. Sometimes, we just have to review what happened and move on.”
Green added, “Basically, I’m tired of hearing about a beating and associating it with Bridges’ death. The autopsy shows there is nothing associating his death with the altercation. In fact, he had a seizure related disorder, and there was no seizure-related medication in his system.
“Each time we had an encounter with him, we were familiar with his condition,” Green continued. “Middleton had never had an encounter with him. State law says I’m supposed to use information which an officer has at the time to use in judgment of whether force was necessary or not. Middleton didn’t know he (Bridges) had medical problems.”
Green said, “Again, I support my officers. They have a hard enough job without having to be second-guessed or criticized for things that come their way. This is the United States and my officers understand that although we may not agree, people have the right to criticize us, as long as they don’t try to force their opinions on somebody else and don’t interfere with other individuals’ rights.
“We, as law enforcement officers, have to equally enforce that right to free speech and will continue to do that. Even though I might disagree with a lot of what some people say, I understand it’s part of my job to protect their right of free speech.”
In conclusion, Green said, “I judge my officers by the way they respond to people they might disagree with.”