OKLAHOMA CITY — Bennie Edwards was shot in the back and killed by an Oklahoma City Police Sergeant December 11 according to DA David Prater’s arrest affidavit filed Thursday.
In Oklahoma County District Court, the DA filed the charge of manslaughter in the first degree against OKCPD Sgt. Clifford Holman with an alternative charge of manslaughter in the second degree. Holman has been with the department for seven years.
The affidavit states that Holman shot Edwards three times “unnecessarily” as Edwards was “running away striking him in his upper middle back.”
If convicted, Holman could serve four years to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving at least 85% of the sentence.
The other officer in the incident, Msgt. Keith Duroy, was not charged.
UPDATE, 2-27-21 — Body-worn camera footage from all three officers directly involved in the incident have been added at the end of this article. The videos are not edited and are in their original form as released to us by the OKCPD Public Information Office.
Officers had been called to the shopping center at N. Pennsylvania Avenue and Hefner Road in the afternoon of December 11 because of reports that Edwards was “bothering customers” in front of the stores.
Edwards was homeless, mentally ill according to family members, and regularly sold flowers at the location and around Oklahoma City.
A city resident captured the incident on video that started circulating on social media soon after showing Edwards being shot while running away from the officers.
A crowd of protesters quickly gathered at the scene including family members who could see Edwards’ body still uncovered in the parking lot for at least an hour after the shooting.
Scuffles between protesters and police resulted in OC spray being used on protesters.
That night, family members and others who knew Edwards gathered in front of the OKCPD Headquarters downtown and took turns memorializing him as they protested police shootings in the metro.
The affidavit says that Edwards opened a folding knife and pointed it toward Msgt. Keith Duroy, the first to respond to the call. Duroy then called for other units and one with a taser. Holman is a certified taser operator and arrived next.
“Mr. Edwards continued to tell officers to leave, keeping the knife in his right hand, and pointing it at officers as they were giving him commands to drop it,” reads the arrest affidavit written by OKCPD Detective Bryn Carter.
The affidavit states that Edwards was tased twice with “no effect” and then sprayed with “OC gas,” again with “little to no effect.” Edwards, still holding the knife, runs past the officers and then east in the parking lot.
The affidavit then reads, “Sgt. Clifford Holman dropped his taser unit, drew his service weapon and fired three (3) shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away striking him in his upper middle back causing his death.”
Later in the day several parties issued statements in response to Holman’s arrest.
According to news reports, Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson with Black Lives Matter – OKC said that it was “simple logic” for Prater to file charges.
“Bennie Edwards should have received the services of mental health providers from his city that day, not the police violence that ignored his humanity and stole his life,” Dickerson told Free Press in a message. “Mr. Bennie Edwards was treated with wanton disregard. His life mattered. Its loss is keenly felt. His death is a tragedy that did not need to happen.”
John George, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents OKCPD officers, issued a statement to the press about the arrest.
“The OKC FOP stands by Sgt. Holman, who followed his training when an armed suspect charged another officer. A loss of life is always a tragedy, but officers must be able to protect one another when de-escalation tactics are ineffective.”
Chicago civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci, along with family members of Bennie Edwards, issued their own statement late Thursday.
“Oklahoma City officials need to take full responsibility for what happened to Bennie Edwards in that parking lot, and today’s manslaughter charge is an important step in that process,” said Attorney Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law. “The continued mistreatment of Black men at the hands of police officers is a national tragedy, and the decision to charge one of the officers reflects the gravity of the situation.”
In the same news release family members commented.
“Our family is devastated by the tragic treatment my father received by police when what he really needed was medical assistance. But we take some comfort today in the fact that an officer will face his day in court so the truth of that horrible encounter can come out,” said Kimberle Thompson, Edwards’ daughter.
“As a Black man whose brother died during an encounter with police, it is difficult to express the hurt and damage this has done to our family. Unfortunately, there are many other Black families who have experienced the same tragedy. It has to stop,” said Greg Edwards, Edwards’ brother.
UPDATE – OKCPD body cam videos
Free Press obtained these three videos from the OKCPD late Friday afternoon after this article was published. All three are in their original form as released to us.
These videos are not intended for children or those who do not want to see an incident leading to the death of Bennie Edwards. We publish these videos for documentation only to give readers as much information as we can provide.
The first officer to arrive in response to the call, according to the OKCPD account, was Msgt. Keith Duroy, then Officer Michael Smith, then Sgt. Clifford Holman. Once Holman arrived, he and Smith deployed tasers with little effect.
When Edwards ran between Smith and Duroy he turned east away from the officers.
Holman (third video below) fired three shots into Edwards’ back and killed him.
Msgt. Keith Duroy’s body-worn camera
Officer Michael Smith’s body-worn camera
Sgt. Clifford Holman’s body-worn camera
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Last Updated February 27, 2021, 7:50 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor