MANHATTAN (CN) – A white police officer will not face charges for fatally shooting an off-duty black officer, the District Attorney’s Office said. A Manhattan Grand Jury heard testimony from 20 witnesses and examined 68 documents before voting not to indict NYPD Officer Andrew Dunton for killing Officer Omar Edwards in East Harlem.
Edwards, 25, was chasing a man who had broken into his car on May 28. Edwards had his gun drawn and was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans as he pursued the man down 125th Street. His NYPD shield was in his pants pocket.
Dunton, 30, and two other plainclothes cops were on patrol in an unmarked Chevy Impala when they saw the chase – and the Smith and Wesson semi-automatic in Edwards’ hand.
Mistaking him for an armed suspect, Dunton stepped out of the car as it came to a stop and yelled, “Police, don’t move, drop the gun, drop the gun.”
Edwards slowed down but didn’t stop, then “he turned his body toward the Anti-Crime officers, making eye contact with Officer Dunton and pointing his gun at him,” District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said in a statement.
“Officer Dunton fired six shots in very rapid succession, in two bursts that lasted a few seconds at most. As he was firing, he saw Officer Edwards turn his left side toward the Impala, turn again, and fall face-down to the ground. According to a civilian witness, Officer Edwards rolled over on the ground before coming to rest on his back.”
A detective cut the sweatshirt off the handcuffed and fatally wounded Edwards and discovered a Police Academy T-shirt with his name on it. Then found the shield in his pocket.
“He’s a police officer,” the detective said. “We need a bus forthwith.”
Edwards died less than an hour later at Harlem Hospital of a chest wound that penetrated through his back.
Dunton has been on administrative duty since the shooting and still faces an internal disciplinary review.
The Associated Press reported that Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has ordered several precautions to minimize friendly fire shootings, such as studying new technology that includes an early warning system that emits a signal to other officers in the area when a cop’s gun is drawn.