Manslaughter Charge for Officer Accused of Shooting Man in the Back

An Oklahoma City police sergeant who shot a man three times in the back as he ran away last December was charged on Thursday with manslaughter.

The shooting of the man, Bennie Edwards, 60, who was Black, by Sgt. Clifford Holman 36, who is white, was partially captured on video and touched off protests in the city. Mr. Edwards had struggled with mental illness, and the officers who confronted him did not possess crisis intervention certification, 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,” the district attorney for Oklahoma County, David W. Prater, said in announcing the case against Sergeant Holman, according to The Associated Press. “Any loss of human life is tragic, and I take these decisions very seriously.”

An affidavit by Bryn Carter, a homicide detective who investigated the matter, accompanied the charging document from Mr. Prater and described the events leading to Mr. Edwards’s death.

On Dec. 11, the police received a call about a man disturbing customers near a store. The first officer to arrive found the man, Mr. Edwards, near a pawnshop. When the officer approached, Mr. Edwards opened a folding knife he had in his right hand and began telling the officer to leave, according to the affidavit.

The officer, Sgt. Keith A. Duroy, called for backup, and specifically asked for a unit with a Taser. Sergeant Holman, a seven-year veteran with the department and a certified Taser operator, soon arrived.

Mr. Edwards kept telling 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 affidavit said. Sergeant Holman “deployed his Taser at Mr. Edwards on two separate occasions with no effect.” Mr. Holman also sprayed Mr. Edwards with a gas, which had “little to no effect,” the affidavit said.

At some point after the second use of the Taser, Mr. Edwards charged Sergeant Duroy with the knife before he changed directions and began “running away from officers,” the affidavit said. That was when Sergeant Holman dropped his 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,” it said.

Sergeant Holman was charged with first-degree manslaughter. The charging document from Mr. Prater’s office also includes an alternative, lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter against the sergeant.

Kyle Sweet, a lawyer representing Sergeant Holman, said in a statement Thursday evening, “We respect the heartache Mr. Edwards’s 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.”

Sergeant Holman is the latest police officer in Oklahoma County to be charged by Mr. Prater following a fatal shooting.

In 2014, Capt. Randy Harrison was sentenced to four years in prison after he was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter for shooting a teenager in the back. In 2019, Sgt. Keith Sweeney was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of an unarmed man.

Last year, Chance Avery, a corporal with the Police Department in The Village, Okla., was charged with manslaughter for shooting a man wielding a baseball bat, KFOR, a television station, reported. That trial is underway.

The officer, Sgt. Keith A. Duroy, called for backup, and specifically asked for a unit with a Taser. Sergeant Holman, a seven-year veteran with the department and a certified Taser operator, soon arrived.

Mr. Edwards kept telling 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 affidavit said. Sergeant Holman “deployed his Taser at Mr. Edwards on two separate occasions with no effect.” Mr. Holman also sprayed Mr. Edwards with a gas, which had “little to no effect,” the affidavit said.

At some point after the second use of the Taser, Mr. Edwards charged Sergeant Duroy with the knife before he changed directions and began “running away from officers,” the affidavit said. That was when Sergeant Holman dropped his 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,” it said.

Sergeant Holman was charged with first-degree manslaughter. The charging document from Mr. Prater’s office also includes an alternative, lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter against the sergeant.

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