Today people are talking about police brutality, corruption and murder every day on social media. But just a short time ago, this was not the case.
Thanks in part to a number of police accountability groups and their related websites and social media presence, getting the word out about police murder has become something of a modern avenue for activism for many across the United States.
One case that without question should have been brought to the national spotlight to the extent that killings like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner were, was the killing of an off-duty rookie cop by an NYPD police officer in East Harlem.
Officer Omar Edwards, 25, was chasing a suspected car thief and had his gun drawn, on a spring evening in 2009.
With only a second after the command “Police! Stop! Drop it!” Officer Andrew Dunton from the 25th Precinct opened fire on Edwards, killing him instantly.
Police used the tried and true story that “he turned with the gun towards us” – just as they would say in the case of John Crawford in 2014, even after video evidence proved that never happened.
This standard police justification shows that officers can even use this way out when they have gunned down a fellow officer.
“This is always a black cop’s fear, that he’d be mistaken for a [suspect],” one source said to local reporters after the incident.
Omar’s father said he can’t understand how such a mistake could happen.
“If a police officer sees someone with a gun, you don’t just fire without asking questions or trying to apprehend the person,” Ricardo Edwards, 72, said. “If the person was firing at a police officer, I understand.”
“It’s a horror for everyone involved. No one comes out unscathed,” an unidentified police source said to local reporters.
Another officer stated that Edwards had “just became a new father. He took some personal time so he could take the baby to North Carolina to meet his folks.”
Edwards’ mother, Natalia Harding, said “I’m hurt that they took my son. That’s my baby they took from me. And all I got was his last hug and kiss when he went to work [tonight] and he said, ‘Ma, I’ll see you when I come home.’ ”
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Edwards, was on his way home when he spotted Miguel Goitia rummaging through his vehicle, with the driver’s side window was broken out.
An officer saw the chase between the two, pulled a u-turn, exited his police cruiser and fired six shots – hitting Edwards twice, once in the left arm and once in the chest.
Edwards never fired his weapon at anyone.
Cops only realized that Edwards was one of them after paramedics cut open his shirt to try to treat the bleeding and saw he was wearing police academy shirt as an undershirt. They then searched him and found his badge.
“Ever since he was a little kid, he wanted to be a police officer,” Edwards mother said. “Something I didn’t want, but it was his choice and he loved what he was doing. He loved helping other people.”
But even as a police officer, Edwards was still looked at as a criminal by default by Dunton and the officers who were with him. Would he have been viewed as a criminal by default if he looked more like Dunton?