Ed Reed should have been in Hawaii this week, getting ready to play in yet another Pro Bowl. Instead, the Ravens highly decorated safety sat in Luling, La., grieving over the loss of a younger brother in a tragedy that left critical questions unanswered.
At a news conference in which authorities said the body pulled from the Mississippi River late Tuesday almost certainly was that of 29-year-old Brian Reed, it was left for Ed to serve as family spokesman and guiding light.
Reed, in obvious distress, spoke of "a loving kid" and doting father who got caught up in the "worldly ways" of our time.
"He had some mental stuff going on before, [but] there was truly no sign of this happening," Reed said. "Like Sheriff [Greg Champagne, of St. Charles Parish] said, we don't know what triggered it, we don't know what happened … between him running from the police officer and the decision he made.
"We know that there's bigger things in life, principalities, that we have to deal with spiritually. Maybe he was dealing with something and having more pain than we ever [knew] that made him make that decision. My brother was not that type of person to have that mentality of doing anything to himself. He was always real close to us and we were close to him."
On the morning of Jan. 7, Brian Reed left the family home in St. Rose, got in a car that belonged to his younger brother, Edwin, and drove away without permission. Family members were concerned enough that they asked police to find their son and bring him home.
When the car ran out of gas near the St. Charles-Jefferson Parish line, a sheriff's deputy stopped to offer assistance and helped Reed push the car to the side of the road. About that time, word came through the police radio that Reed was using the car without authorization, which is a crime. The deputy called Reed back and began to pat him down when Reed broke away and jogged off. The deputy knew of Reed's mental issues and followed him in his police car as Reed jogged down the road. Eventually, Reed crossed the levee and then went into the Mississippi before the deputy could reach him.
In a video of the news conference that appeared on the New Orleans Times Picayune's website, Ed Reed explained in agonizing detail why his mother and father, Karen and Ed Reed Sr., called the police.
"We knew; the parish knew; that day that my brother was having some mental issues and [his parents] contacted the police and had to report the car stolen to try to basically slow my brother down and bring him in, bring him home," Reed said. "Unfortunately, he thought otherwise and the officer was not able to apprehend him and bring him home. ... It was nothing illegal going on or anything like that. It was just an issue where concerned parents were trying to bring their child to safety."
Later in Wednesday's news conference, Reed said the family was concerned about Brian because of "disagreements" they had with him.
"We were trying to help him, knowing that he was going through, like I said, just some disagreements with my parents at the time," Reed said. "Parents know when something is going on with their kids. And they had an issue with him before that, mentally. He was on medication, actually. And they knew something was going on. That was the reason why they were seeking to get him help."
Ed Reed was in Baltimore on the day Brian went missing, preparing for a wild-card playoff game in Kansas City. Reed would play in the game, and Wednesday he talked about how much support he got from his teammates and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who flew Reed to Louisiana after the victory over the Chiefs.
"Being around my teammates, who support me through so much, and like my brothers are very spiritual men," Reed said. "The team chaplain, Rod Hairston, all of them did a great job of just comforting me and helping me through. …
"Even the friends I have on the other teams, Kansas City, the [Pittsburgh] Steelers, those guys were just tremendous at showing support, knowing that life is bigger than the game I play. … We are human and regular people at the end of the day. We're not immune from the trials and tribulations that go on through life."
Wide receiver Derrick Mason was among the first to respond to Reed's loss. On his Facebook page, Mason wrote: "My heart goes out to my teammate and brother, Ed Reed. Ed's passions are God and family first, then football and helping others … so I've decided to make a donation to Ed's foundation in Honor and Memory of his brother and I hope you'll consider doing the same."
The tentative identification of Brian Reed was made as a result of tattoos he had, tattoos that matched the body recovered from the Mississippi.
"We knew of tattoos Brian Reed had, and we were able to get a tentative ID based on the tattoos," said Capt. Patrick Yoes, the public information officer for St. Charles Parish. "We're extremely confident [it is Brian]. He was found no more than 40 yards from where he went into the water. He got caught up in debris. The water is treacherous, particularly where he went in."
Yoes said Reed had become snagged in debris around an old, submerged dock just off shore.
An autopsy will be conducted by the Jefferson Parish coroner's office on Thursday. The autopsy was delayed from Wednesday to allow the family of victims who died during interactions with police to have an independent doctor examine the body of the deceased.
"They always afford this opportunity to the family [in these instances]," said Lt. Wayne McInnis of the Kenner, La., police. "It's a question of transparency."
Brian Reed was not married, but had a 2-year-old son. Brian Reed's twin brother, Clyde, lives in Baton Rouge.
"He was a loving kid," Ed Reed, 32, said of Brian. "He just was a good kid, man. He had a son that he cherished and loved and that was his reason for living. Like I said, there's things we have to deal with inside of us that sometimes kind of take control of you, get control of you, that you don't know how to handle."
In his loss, Ed Reed tried to reach out to other troubled kids, hoping this experience might make a difference.
"I just know with dealing with Louisiana in general … how these kids today are taking each other out or getting involved in different things to where it's taken control of them and making them do things that, as parents, we can't explain," he said. "That's the times we're living in. Hopefully, we can change it together because it's not one person that can change that — not me, not Sheriff [Champagne] by himself. And hopefully we can change that. You know, that's why we try to do things in the community. And hopefully we can try to make that one kid turn around and hopefully, that one kid can learn from this situation."Click here to order Ed Reed’s proCane Rookie Card.