Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Omar Edwards

Jul 24, 2009

Justice delayed is justice denied. On May 28, Omar Edwards began his day like any other; kissing his 18-month-old and seven-month old children, hugging his wife and going out for another hard day’s work.

But later that evening, 25-year-old Edwards’ life was tragically and violently cut short when his body was riddled with bullets. This wasn’t the work of a thug, a mentally challenged person nor a would-be thief. Instead, Edwards was shot several times by a fellow police officer – yes police officer – while in pursuit of an actual criminal. Another young Black man unjustifiably slain.

In cities and towns all across this country we here the stories of young men and women of color being ‘mistakenly shot at’ or ‘wrongfully killed’. There are continuous investigations of police department protocol and police conduct, and a plethora of excuses and justifications that slowly emerge. But what is the unfathomable excuse of police officers killing a fellow comrade? How can so-called ‘friendly fire’ take place? And more importantly, how can we not hold the shooter, in this case 30-year-old Andrew Dunton, accountable?

Now people will attempt to argue that this isn’t a Black/White issue, but how is it not when the only thing Dunton had to go on was Edwards’ Blackness? Authorities will quickly safeguard Dunton and say Edwards was in plain clothes, but so was officer Dunton. Once again, the presumed guilt and criminalization of young Black men was enough to warrant a shoot first, ask questions later mentality. Instead of attempting to tarnish Edwards, those leading an investigation should look in to Dunton, his record and the chain of events that lead to Edwards’ untimely death. Too often we focus on the victim and not the perpetrator; it’s time to demand more.

The Edwards, his young widow Danielle and their two babies buried officer Edwards last week. It was a moving procession with his family, friends and colleagues who literally lined the streets in uniform. They recounted Edwards’ lifelong dreams and pursuits of becoming an NYPD officer. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly both attended the somber event and pledged to raise Edwards’ status to that of a first-grade detective in order for his family to obtain increased benefits. In other words, his salary was raised by about $60,000; a mere $60,000 while two children will forever be fatherless, Danielle a widow and his parents having to cope with the realization that they buried their own son.

This is not justice. We demand an outside federal investigation into what took place that tragic night. We demand answers to this inexplicable incident. We cannot tacitly accept that this was ‘an unfortunate accident’ or sit back without calling in to question officer Dunton and others present at the scene. This, after all, wouldn’t be the first time the NYPD has killed one of its own. In 2008, a Black off-duty Mount Vernon police officer was gunned down by a Westchester County policeman, and in 2006, officer Eric Hernandez was shot and killed by an on-duty patrolman. If race is irrelevant to these cases, I ask, why are all of the countless victims people of color? If all rules and regulations were properly followed in Edwards’ case, then let a federal investigation prove it. We owe it to a man who sacrificed his own life to truly serve and protect others. It’s time to demand answers because any justice delayed is undoubtedly justice denied.