7Investigates 2020: A rare look inside Broward jails; driving change in Florida law; covering coronavirus

(WSVN) - 2020 was a year like no other, and it kept our 7Investigates team busy. From stories on the pandemic to a rare look inside South Florida jails and even a change to state law, investigative reporter Karen Hensel has a look back at what the team uncovered.

In January, 7News was the first in the country to obtain video of the confessed Parkland shooter behind bars.

The recording starts with Nikolas Cruz walking in slow circles inside the Broward Main Jail before giving a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy the middle finger, charging and punching him and even grabbing the deputy’s Taser.

In another look inside a Broward jail, 7Investigates obtained video of a detention deputy punching an inmate 13 times before throwing her on the floor.

Chet Epperson, former police chief: “That’s a very concerning video.”

In his report, the deputy wrote the inmate “spit in my face, eyes and mouth … gouged something into my right eye” and said he was “in fear of my life.”

A BSO review identified no misconduct by the deputy.

7News also investigated old police cars being sold to civilians.

Our 2019 story led lawmakers to act in 2020 after we revealed Florida Law did not say who was responsible for removing official markings.

Some retired cars still on the road had slipped through the cracks.

State Sen. Annette Taddeo: “It was a loophole in the law, and we have fixed that loophole.”

Now, law enforcement agencies and auction companies must provide proof police markings have been removed before selling old cop cars.

Of course, the coronavirus crisis impacted everyone in some way this year.

Florida Atlantic University researchers demonstrated how some respiratory droplets from a heavy cough could reach up to 12 feet and how masks help slow the spread.

State employee: “The people here in Florida deserve better.”

In a 7News exclusive, a state employee stepped forward anonymously describing what he called a systematic failure processing unemployment applications that were mailed in.

State employee: “Every day, I’m seeing applications that are a month old, three weeks old.”

Then there were pandemic parties from Miami mansions packed with people to condo chaos.

Rita Lagace: “Hundreds, hundreds! No one has a mask on. It is like a joke!”

With bars and clubs closed due to COVID-19, the parties moved underground turning luxury living into a nightmare for some residents.

Resident: “You kind of feel like you’re a prisoner in your own building. It’s kind of insane.”

7Investigates also documented black smoke billowing out of three human crematories in South Florida.

Reporter Karen Hensel, on the phone: “Hi, this is Karen Hensel with 7News, could I talk to someone about the black smoke that is coming out of your chimney right now?”

One concern was the burning of thicker body bags during the pandemic, potentially containing higher levels of a hazardous chemical.

Steven Bedoya: “So the bags they normally use are a bit thinner, but these thicker bags are pretty much what’s being used now to wrap the bodies, so it’s something new that we’re encountering with the pandemic.”

If you think there’s something we should investigate, here’s how to reach us in 2021.

CONTACT 7INVESTIGATES:
305-627-CLUE
954-921-CLUE
clue@wsvn.com

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