OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt addressed the recent fatal police shootings of a homeless man who was allegedly holding a knife and a 15-year-old who was suspected of robbing a gas station.
“Oklahoma City has recently experienced at least two officer-involved shootings ending in death that have left us all wondering if there are ways to avoid these tragedies,” Holt said. “All levels of government and the non-profit sector must continue and enhance investments in our youth, mental health services, and services for those experiencing homelessness.”
Holt posted the lengthy statement on Facebook on Saturday, the day after two police officers shot and killed Bennie Edwards, a black homeless man in his late 50s who was killed outside of Extra Cash Gold & Loan on the corner of West Hefner Road and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The owner of Extra Cash Gold & Loan called police over Edwards being outside the business, according to police.
A witness’ smart phone video shows police opening fire on Edwards as he frantically runs.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic footage of a man identified as Bennie Edwards being shot and killed after Oklahoma City police officers responded to a reported disturbance.
Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dan Stewart told KFOR that the officers at the scene used both a stun gun and pepper spray to subdue Edwards but were not successful. Stewart said Edwards was carrying a knife when he was shot and killed by the officers.
Edwards’ relatives, however, said Edwards suffered from bipolar schizophrenia. They described him as a gentle man known in the community for selling flowers on the corner. His niece, Ameerah Gaines, told KFOR that he likely believed he was in danger.
The other recent fatal police-involved shooting in Oklahoma City occurred on Nov. 23, when 15-year-old Stavian Rodriguez was shot and killed by police.
Police say Rodriguez had a gun while escaping through a drive-thru window after being accused of robbing a gas station.
Community members have gathered to protest both shootings, saying that police did not need to use lethal force to bring the situation with Edwards under control, and alleging that Rodriguez was following commands when he was shot. Police, however, say Rodriguez was not obeying commands
Holt spoke about ongoing efforts regarding the Oklahoma City Police Department’s relationship with community members, as well as use of force by police.
The mayor gave particular mention to the Law Enforcement Policy Task Force, which he created this past summer when concerns over police use of force accelerated following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both African American.
The task force includes four City Council members. It was created, Holt said, to consider recommendations of a “very inclusive and broad-based group of residents.”
“If the task force did not exist, we would be creating it right now, but it does exist and its work is underway. They had their most recent meeting earlier this week. They are currently in the process of seeking national-level advisors to provide analysis and proven best practices,” Holt said. “The work of this task force is timely, it is important, and it will be informed by studying officer-involved shootings, including the ones we have experienced in recent weeks.”
Holt said progress between the Police Department and the community it protects cannot be made unless it is pursued together.
“We all have a role to play in this journey of community self-improvement, the answers aren’t simple, and progress is always slower than we want, but there is a path forward,” Holt said. “We can and must walk it together.”
Holt’s entire statement on the recent police shootings is posted below.
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