An Oklahoma City officer has been charged with first-degree manslaughter in the December shooting death of a homeless Black man.
The shooting happened last year on Dec. 11 in the 2100 block of West Hefner Road in Oklahoma City.
Bennie Edwards, a 60-year-old homeless man, died after Sgt. Clifford Holman, 36, shot him in the back multiple times as he ran away.
The Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police has defended Holman amid the criminal charges filed this week, saying in a statement, that the officer “upheld his duty and followed the law.”
Bryn Carter, a homicide detective with the Oklahoma City Police Department, said the altercation began when Sgt. Keith Duroy arrived on the scene at around 11:30 a.m. in response to a report of a man bothering customers at a convenience store
Upon his arrival, Duroy saw that Edwards had a “folding style lock blade knife” in his right hand. Edwards was known by the community and suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to his family.
Duroy called for backup, including a unit with a Taser, and Holman, a certified Taser operator, arrived on the scene.
In a probable cause affidavit, Carter said Edwards pointed the knife at officers, telling them to leave and ignoring orders to drop the weapon.
Holman deployed the Taser twice although it was ineffective, and the pepper spray Edwards was hit with also had “little to no effect,” the affidavit said.
Following the second Taser deployment, Edwards charged at Duroy with the knife in his hand, then turned east and ran away from officers.
“Sgt. Clifford Holman dropped his Taser unit, drew his service weapon and fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away, striking him in his upper middle back, causing his death,” court documents stated. Edwards was pronounced dead at the scene.
Footage of the shooting taken by a witness was shared to social media, and the incident sparked days of protests and calls for Police Chief Wade Gourley to be fired and for Mayor David Holt to resign.
All officers involved were placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office notified the police department that Holman would be charged on Feb. 24. Dash camera and body camera footage of the shooting was released by prosecutors on Friday.
Holman, who has served seven years on the force, faces four years to life in prison if convicted, with the possibility of parole after serving at least 85 percent of the sentence. Holman was also charged with second-degree manslaughter in the alternative, which carries a two-to-four-year sentence. Duroy was not charged.
The Oklahoma FOP stood by Holman and defended his actions.
“In this situation, when faced with a disturbed individual armed with a deadly weapon, our officers used multiple methods of de-escalation and less-lethal options to try to avoid the use of deadly force. When those efforts were ineffective, the officers were put in peril when they were charged by the armed person. We maintain that Sgt. Holman upheld his duty and followed the law,” a statement from the FOP said.
Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson with Black Lives Matter-OKC applauded the decision to charge Holman, calling it “simple logic.”
“So I don’t know how [Oklahoma County] DA [David] Prater could come to any other conclusion than to do what was just and to press charges against the officer,” Dickerson said.