A deadly encounter between two officers
EAST HARLEM (WABC) -- New details have emerged regarding the deadly shooting of Officer Omar Edwards on Thursday night.
The fatal shooting happened around 10:45 p.m. Thursday evening, on East 125th Street, between First and Second Avenues in East Harlem.
According to police, shortly before 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, Officer Edwards, 25, left PSA 5 through the back door on East 124th Street between Second and Third Avenues and walked to his car, a late-model Nissan, which was parked a few car lengths north of 124th Street on the east side of Second Ave.
As Officer Edwards crossed Second Avenue, police said he began to run towards his parked car and then engaged in a struggle with Miguel Santiago, 43, who had allegedly broken into Officer Edwards' car, smashing the driver-side window. A video camera from a nearby construction site captured Officer Edwards running across Second Avenue and engaging Santiago.
As the two men struggled, investigators said Santiago slipped out of his black Modell's uniform shirt, with the word "STAFF" on the back. Santiago ran north on Second Avenue and eastbound, kitty-corner to East 125th Street, running across 125th Street from south to north, with Officer Edwards in close pursuit. Officer Edwards was in plain clothes. Police said he had taken out his gun, a Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter.
At the same time, a 25th Precinct Anti-Crime team with a sergeant and two officers had just turned west from 1st Avenue onto 125th Street. As their vehicle approached the middle of the block, Santiago ran in front of the unmarked car and continued running east on 125th Street. The Anti-Crime team stopped and all three officers got out as Officer Edwards ran in front of the car.
The shooting officer, who was in the front passenger seat, got out of the car and shouted at Officer Edwards to stop and drop the gun. According to the sergeant and the non-shooting officer, the shooting officer yelled, "Police, stop&drop the gun, drop the gun."
Santiago told investigators that he saw three men with police shields around their necks get out of the grey, unmarked car and heard one of them yell, "Police, drop the gun."
The officer driving the car said that, after hearing the command, he saw Officer Edwards turn, with the gun still in his hand, toward the shooting officer. The sergeant said he also saw Officer Edwards turn toward the shooting officer, identified as Officer Andrew Dunton.
At that point, police said Dunton fired six times from a Glock 9-millimeter, striking Officer Edwards three times - once in the left arm (in and out), once in the left side (bullet is lodged in right abdomen), and once in the left back (bullet is lodged in the chest).
Edwards and Dunton were approximately 15 feet apart. Six shell casings from the shooting officer's gun were recovered at the scene.
ESU officers responded to the scene at 10:31 p.m. and rendered aid to Officer Edwards. In cutting off his outer garment they discovered he was wearing a Police Academy t-shirt. That's when they checked his clothing further and found his police shield and ID in his front left pants pocket.
Officer Edwards was transported to Harlem Hospital at 10:37 p.m. He was pronounced at 11:21 p.m.
Investigators interviewed five eyewitnesses and 20 ear-witnesses, who reported hearing gunshots. One of the eyewitnesses said he saw Officer Edwards chasing Santiago across 125th Street, heard yelling, and shots being fired. He could not make out what the yelling was. That witness is being re-interviewed today to determine whether he witnessed any portion of the police-involved shooting.
All three officers have been assigned to administrative duties, and the investigation continues. There has been no determination at this time whether the shooting was within Departmental guidelines.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it a "sad night for the city, NYPD and all New Yorkers."
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the terrible confusion of the moment had deadly consequences. Edwards is a black police officer and the officer who shot him is white. The officer who fired the shots has been identified by a police official as Andrew Dunton.
Dunton, 30, is a four-year veteran of the NYPD and part of the anti-crime unit.
On Friday, lawmakers and residents debated whether race played in the shooting even as the NYPD is the most diverse it's ever been.
"I think they just saw a guy with a gun. How's that cop (who shot him) supposed to know" he was a police officer, said Carmen Romero, who was on her way to work Friday from a nearby housing project. On the other hand, she said, it could have been because the cop was black.
Phyllis Tate, talking with another customer in a shop near the scene of the shooting, wondered how to identify officers if they're not in uniform.
"I don't feel this was a racial thing. They can't be running around out here in plainclothes with their guns drawn. The shooter was acting like an officer. The victim was acting like an officer also," she said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he got calls shortly after the shooting "from black officers who were at the precinct and were alarmed by the shooting of Omar Edwards." The civil rights activist said he is concerned about "a growing pattern of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the criminals."
Sharpton called for a federal investigation.
"Can police investigate themselves fairly and impartially? It would seem very difficult at best and unlikely in fact," he said. Browne wouldn't comment on the race issue.
The 25-year-old Edwards joined the department in July 2007, and his family said he always wanted to be a cop.
"He was a wonderful, wonderful child from when he was small," said his father, Ricardo Edwards.
Omar Edwards lived in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn with his new wife and two small children, but was assigned to the Impact Response Team, a roving team of officers that helps flood higher-crime areas with officers. Edwards also played defensive tackle for the NYPD football team last year but took this season off to get married.
"His desire was always to be a policeman and to play football; and he did accomplish both because he plays for the Police Department," said his uncle, Jerome Harding.
His friends and family are very distraught by his tragic death.
His father-in-law said he died doing what he loved to do.
"It's a terrible tragedy...a 25-year-old police officer dedicated his life to protect the rest of us is dead...there's nothing we can say that will bring him back," said Mayor Bloomberg.
On Friday, purple and black bunting hung in front of the police station, and several vigils were held for the family. More were planned for the weekend. The NYPD changed its on-the-job training for June to confrontations between officers.
The shooting recalled other cases of off-duty policemen being shot and killed by fellow officers.
In 2008, a black, off-duty Mount Vernon police officer was killed by a Westchester County policeman while holding a gun on an assault suspect in suburban White Plains.
In 2006, a New York City police officer, Eric Hernandez, was shot and killed by an on-duty patrolman who was responding to an attack at a White Castle in the Bronx.
The last New York City police officer killed in the line of duty was Russel Timoshenko. The 23-year-old officer was shot during a traffic stop in Brooklyn in July 2007.
About the Anti-Crime Unit:
NYPD Patrol Guide Procedure
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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