Thousands Remember Black NYC Officer Slain by Fellow Cop
Date: Friday, June 05, 2009, 3:33 pm
By: Tom Hays, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — After Omar Edwards achieved a dream by graduating from the New York Police Department academy, he was so proud he wore his badge around his apartment.
"On duty or off-duty — even at home — he was a police officer," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday.
Edwards' life ended as an officer too: He was killed last week in a friendly fire incident that has raised questions about race and police tactics.
Thousands of officers in crisp dress uniforms lined up Thursday five-deep for about 10 blocks outside a Catholic church in Brooklyn for Edwards' funeral, where Kelly, Gov. David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others eulogized him. The mayor announced the officer was being posthumously promoted to detective, which means his family will get more death benefits.
Edwards, 25, had just ended a tour in Harlem and was in street clothes on May 28 when he chased a man who had broken into his car down a dark street. Plainclothes officers patrolling nearby noticed the pair and ordered them to halt. When Edwards turned toward them with his gun out, one of the officers shot him.
"The crime set in motion a tragic chain of events which we are doing everything in our power to understand," Kelly told an audience that included Edwards' parents, wife Danielle and two tiny sons. "We owe Omar's family our deepest sympathy, our everlasting loyalty."
The commissioner described the victim as a curious, steady and attentive student who thrived in the police academy. As an officer, he rooted out drugs and gained the trust of young men and women.
"Even when making an arrest, he'd encourage suspects to turn their lives around," Kelly said.
Edwards was also an athlete: He signed up for bicycle patrol and played on the NYPD's football team.
And he was a loving father and son. When officers opened his locker last week after his death, they found a photo tucked into his police cap showing his son on the day he was born, Kelly said.
"By all accounts, life as a police officer was everything Omar hoped it would be. Between work and fatherhood, he was living out a lifelong dream," Kelly said.
NYPD officers were still struggling to make sense of the killing. Edwards' partner, Officer Michael Muskin, said that when he heard that Edwards was dead, "I couldn't believe it. To find that out was heartbreaking."
The officer who fired at Edwards, Andrew Dunton, and two other officers have been placed on administrative duty as the department investigates.
At the funeral mass, the Rev. Paul Jervis said Dunton needs their prayers. "He too needs our compassion," he said.
Edwards was black; the three other officers were white. Several leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, believe race is a factor in his death. Paterson called for a thorough investigation but stopped short of saying race was a factor, adding that the shooting was not deliberate.
In the week since the shooting, the NYPD has revamped its training on confrontations with other officers, and said on-the-job training in June would cover confrontations. Kelly, Paterson and Bloomberg have canvassed the community, offering condolences and listening to residents' fears.
"I promise you we will do everything possible to learn from this tragedy," Bloomberg told mourners.