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Stephon Johnson, Special NNPA, from Amsterdam News
Published: 10 June 2009

NEW YORK (NNPA) - When New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced at Omar Edwards' funeral that the slain officer would posthumously be promoted to detective, it seemed liked a genuine gesture toward Edwards and the family and friends he left behind.

It was actually pressure from the NYPD that made Kelly promote Edwards.

"That was a result of the NYPD asking directly why isn't he being promoted," said Anthony Miranda, executive chairman of the National Latino Officer Association. "We had initially approached him about it and he actually questioned why. He said that he'd look into it."

On May 28, Edwards was killed on the streets of East Harlem by fellow Officer Andrew Dunton, who mistook him for a criminal. Edwards, wearing plain clothes and with his gun drawn, was chasing down a perpetrator, Miguel Santiago, who had burglarized his car. Dunton assumed Edwards was a criminal and opened fire six times, hitting Edwards three times.

Kelly's words, along with the NYPD's, are slowly coming back to haunt him. On Tuesday, two separate 30-second cell phone videos taken at the scene of the shooting by two men who wish to remain anonymous were released. The videos showed the officers walking around Edwards as he appeared to be handcuffed, not rendering aid to the victim. That was strike one in retired Detective Graham Witherspoon's eyes.

"You're just walking around him like he was junk on the street," he said. "Nobody was making an effort to give any medical assistance."

He adds, "We used to carry first aid kits to do simple first aid at least ... Depending on where a person is shot, you may have an entry wound and an exit wound. Regardless, you want to control bleeding if possible and keep that area closed."

He continues, "I'd like to know when they declared him dead?" said Witherspoon. "This is very disturbing."

The men responsible for the video also claim that an officer in uniform who spotted them told them to leave if they weren't on the job. "You don't ever send a witness away," Witherspoon said. The video could greatly affect the investigation of the killing.

Everything from proper police procedure to a possible cover-up by the NYPD might be on the table.

The NYPD and district attorney's office declined to comment on the videos.

"This is exactly why we are calling for an independent prosecutor," boomed Rev.Al Sharpton, shortly after viewing the startling videos. "None of what we are seeing was in the preliminary report. The police actually shooed away witnesses. Who knows what they might have been able to add to the investigation?"

Images of police walking around a wounded individual without rendering aid should sound familiar, Witherspoon told the paper. Kenneth Boss, a police officer, shot Patrick Bailey over a decade ago in the Brooklyn and stood over his body as he bled to death, he recalled. Fifteen months later, Boss was involved in the unprovoked 41-shot Amadou Diallo killing.

"A Black person who is shot in New York City is perceived to be nothing more than a perpetraor," said Witherspoon. "They're exemplifying what the routine procedure is for the NYPD." Ellen Borakove, a spokesperson for the medical examiner, said that the fatal bullet entered the left side of Edwards' back before hitting his heart and his left lung.

But that's not what Kelly told to media, according to Miranda. "I think they misclassified it from the beginning," he said. "Friendly fire. He was shot in the chest. They helped to misrepresent the facts, mislead the public and disengaged the community, who'd be upset with the truth. This is a pattern that has already developed whenever there's been questionable shooting," Miranda said. "They purposefully put out misinformation and take no steps to correct the info that's out there in the public. They made a [conscious] decision not to correct it."

Said retired detective Witherspoon, "I know that the surgeon came out and told them that he wasn't shot in the chest ... But Kelly chose to tell the public a lie."

Witherspoon claimed Kelly to be a man who not only lies to the average Joes of New York, but also to those who called themselves men of God.

"He [Kelly] got together a group of clergy men from Harlem and had them hold a press conference saying they believed and accepted his explanation [for the shooting],"said Witherspoon. "They need to stop running up to the mayor and commissioner anytime something happens because they usually lie to them....Here's a man who would lie to the clergy," said Witherspoon. "If he would lie to the clergy, who wouldn't he lie to?"

Miranda and Co. have already gone on the offensive. "We've spoken to the district attorney candidates, since they would be the ones to handle the case," said Miranda. "We still plan on meeting with the governor."

Miranda's proactive stance isn't necessarily because he worries that this case would go to trial. He feels that the case won't even see the light of day in a courtroom.

"I don't think the NYPD would allow it to go to trial," said Miranda. "If they have to justify Omar's shooting, then they would be in essence giving all of the excuses a criminal would use to shoot or assault an officer out of uniform. Defense attorneys would line up to defend their clients on the same grounds.

"They'll have trouble trying to legally justify this, which is why it won't go to trial. They can't take that chance," Miranda said. "They'll settle out of court with the family first so they'd never have to document what went wrong."

Witherspoon, when asked what should be done with Kelly, didn't mince words. He said, "This man should have been gone a long time ago.''


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