Image Source: Sue Ogrocki
By ArLuther Lee,The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
An Oklahoma City police officer has been charged with first-degree manslaughter after shooting a Black man in the back three times as the man ran away from a confrontation with deputies in December.
The fatal shooting, which happened Dec. 11, was captured on video that showed Sgt. Clifford Holman, 36, firing his service weapon at 60-year-old Bennie Edwards, a homeless man who struggled with mental illness, according to reports.
Edwards was armed with a folding knife during the incident.
Holman, a seven-year veteran with the Oklahoma City department, and another officer who first encountered Edwards were not trained to handle crisis intervention, The Oklahoman reported.
“There are always many things to consider when determining whether or not an officer’s use of deadly force is lawfully justified or not,” said Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who announced the charges against Holman late last week. “Any loss of human life is tragic, and I take these decisions very seriously.”
The charge filed against Holman, who is white, included a report by Homicide investigator Bryn Carter, who recounted the circumstances that led to the shooting.
Sgt. Keith Duroy first arrived on the scene after a disturbance call near a pawn shop in northwest Oklahoma City, according to reports.
Edwards, now wielding the knife, warned the officer to leave him alone. Duroy called for backup and specifically asked the dispatcher to send an officer who had a Taser.
Holman, a certified Taser operator, soon arrived, but the confrontation escalated.
Edwards didn’t comply and told the officers to leave, “keeping the knife in his right hand, and pointing it at officers as they were giving him commands to drop it,” the investigator’s affidavit states. Holman then “deployed his Taser at Mr. Edwards on two separate occasions with no effect.”
Holman also pepper-sprayed Edwards, which had “little to no effect,” Carter wrote in the report.
Edwards then charged toward Duroy with the knife, but then changed directions and began “running away from officers.”
That’s when Holman allegedly dropped the Taser, drew his gun “and fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away striking him in his upper middle back, causing his death,” Carter said.
Court records show that prosecutors have discretion to lessen the charge to second-degree manslaughter.
In a statement last Thursday, Holman’s lawyer Kyle Sweet said, “We respect the heartache Mr. Edwards’ family is suffering, but we are convinced Sergeant Holman acted lawfully, and we are proud to represent him as we fight these charges in a court of law.”