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Unfriendly Fire

Amsterdam News, News Report , Cyril Josh Barker Posted: Aug 20, 2009

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau announced Thursday that a New York County grand jury voted no affirmative action against Officer Andrew Dunton for the May 28 shooting of Officer Omar Edwards.

According to Morgenthaus office, the grand jury heard from 20 police, medical and civilian witnesses along with examining 68 documents.

Edwards, 25, was in plain clothes when Dunton, 30, shot him. Edwards was chasing after a man who was attempting to steal items in his car. Edwards chased the man to 125th Street and First Avenue.

Plain-clothes officers from the 25th Precinct patrolling the area saw two men running down the street. Dunton saw that Edwards had a gun, not knowing he was an officer. The district attorneys office reports that Dunton identified himself as an officer before firing six shots at Edwards. A bullet wound to the chest that penetrated his back killed him. When detectives arrived on scene, Edwards sweatshirt was cut open, revealing a police academy T-shirt.

Edwards had been on the force for 22 months and was married with two children.

Natalie Harding, Edwards mother, said Dunton should go to jail because he could do the same thing again. At a press conference earlier this week in front of her Ocean Hill home, Harding said she doesnt want anyone else to go through what shes experienced.

I dont want to see my sons death go in vain, she said. And neither would I like to see another mother suffering the way I am now.

Also at the press conference, several groups, including 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and the Latino Officers Association, called on Gov. David Paterson to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting.

Paterson created a task force that will look into the issue off friendly fire shootings involving the police. Marquez Claxton of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance said the decision was disturbingly predicable.

Its very troubling that every time this happens, people lose confidence in the justice system, Claxton said. You have individuals who are in authority to change the system. Claxton is referring to Paterson, who he said previously authorized legislation calling for independent prosecution of police involved shootings while in the State Senate. Now that Paterson is governor, Claxton said, hes not following through on previous decisions.

In 1999, then Senate Majority Leader Paterson protested during the Amadou Diallo shooting. Paterson was arrested for disorderly conduct along with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Nearly 10 years later, he condemned Sharptons massive citywide protest after the Sean Bell verdict, openly saying that he did not approve of the demonstration.

The major problem is not police-on-police shootings. The bigger problem is the innocent shootings of Blacks and Latinos, Claxton said. There shouldve been a task force set up for that. Race is the real issue. The NYPD shouldnt be investigating the NYPD. In late June, Paterson established the Police-on-Police Shootings Task Force and said issues of race would be looked at. Harvard University criminal justice professor Christopher Stone chairs the task force.

The primary objective of this task force is to ensure that no police officer falls victim to these circumstances ever again because the implications for our families and our communities are simply too devastating, Paterson said.

Related Articles:

Plainclothes Surveillance Proves Deadly for Black Officers and Civilians

SPLC Report: Militias Returning in Fear of Black President

Distrustful of Government, Upset About Race, Militias Rise Again in America

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