An Oklahoma City police officer who shot a mentally ill Black man in the back has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.
On December 11, Sgt. Clifford Holman shot 60-year-old Bennie Edwards in the back as he attempted to flee from officers. Police were called to the scene in response to an agitated man who was disturbing customers.
Authorities said officers tried to de-escalate the situation with pepper spray and a Taser after Edwards threated them with a knife.
Edwards “ran at the officer, and he had a knife, and the officer was forced to discharge his weapon,” police Capt. Daniel Stewart said.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed by Bryn Carter, a homicide detective and 27-year veteran of the Oklahoma City Police Department, when Edwards does not comply with the officers demands to drop the knife, he is Tasered twice.
The Tasers don’t appear to have much effect on Edwards and after the second Taser deployment, Edwards charges toward Officer Duroy with the knife still in his right hand, before turning east, “running away from officers.”
“Sgt. Clifford Holman dropped his Taser unit, drew his service weapon and fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away, striking him in his upper middle back, causing death,” Carter said in the affidavit.
In a cell phone video of the shooting posted on social media, a total of six gunshots can be heard.
An autopsy report from the Office of the Chief medical Examiner stated that four bullets hit Edwards. One grazed his right arm and struck the right side of his chest, one grazed his right thigh, and two hit him in his back and abdomen.
Edwards was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to court records, Edwards had a long history of mental illness, was admitted to the state mental hospital and was treated with psychotropic medication.
People from the community where Edwards was killed said he was frequently seen riding his bicycle and selling flowers. His family and loved ones described him as a mentally ill man with a gentle spirit.
If convicted, Holman faces four years to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving at least 85% of the sentence.
Holman is currently on paid administrative leave.