OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The family of a man shot and killed last year by an Oklahoma City police officer is suing the city and two officers involved in the shooting.
The federal lawsuit filed this week on behalf of Bennie Edwards’ family alleges officers Keith Duroy and Clifford Holman used excessive force and were improperly trained.
According to police, the 60-year-old Edwards was holding a knife and refused officers’ commands to drop it when they confronted him outside a north Oklahoma City business on Dec. 11, 2020. After using a stun gun and pepper spray on Edwards to little effect, Holman fired three shots at him as he was running away.
“Oklahoma City’s Police Department has a custom and practice of using excessive force disproportionally against minorities, unarmed and mentally ill individuals and what happened to Bennie Edwards was truly shameful," civil rights attorney Ben Crump said in a statement. “He was in emotional distress at the time the officers encountered him, and instead of responding with compassion and care, they treated him with aggression, tasers and bullets.”
Edwards' attorneys also allege in the lawsuit that officers failed to render aid to Edwards after they shot him, waiting more than two minutes after Edwards had fallen to the ground before checking him for a pulse.
The suit, which seeks more than $75,000, says Edwards suffered from a long history of bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Edwards' mother, Juanita Hill, and one of his daughters, Kimberle Thompson.
Police spokesman Sgt. Gary Knight declined to comment on the suit, citing the pending litigation.
John George, president of the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police, called the shooting “tragic" and expressed his condolences to the family in a statement.
“However, I believe our officers followed their training and the law when they were confronted by an armed violent person and acted accordingly to keep themselves and innocent citizens safe that day,” George said.
Holman was charged earlier this year with manslaughter in the shooting. That case is pending in Oklahoma County.
The shooting sparked days of protests and demonstrations by Black Lives Matter groups and other activists.