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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – One of the officers involved in the killing of Bennie Edwards late last year has been charged with first-degree manslaughter. The charging documents describe the actions of Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Clifford Holman as “unnecessary” and “without justifiable cause.”

On Dec. 11, 2020, police were called to a pawn shop in northwest Oklahoma City because employees said Edwards was bothering customers.

Police said he had a knife he refused to drop at their commands, even after he was tased twice and pepper-sprayed.

A homeless man who was allegedly holding a knife was shot and killed by Oklahoma City police.
Bennie Edwards, a 60-year-old homeless man who was allegedly holding a knife, was shot and killed by Oklahoma City police.

The affidavit states that Edwards then ran towards one of the officers with the knife still in hand, then ran away from all three officers at the scene.

Clifford, a seven-year veteran at the Oklahoma City Police Department, drew his gun and “fired three shots unnecessarily at Mr. Edwards as he was running away.”

On cell phone video of the killing, there were six shots heard in total.

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Sgt. Clifford Holman

Online publication Nondoc acquired Edwards autopsy report which shows he suffered five gunshot wounds. Two grazed Edwards’ body, the others hit him in the chest, abdomen and back. His cause of death is listed as “multiple gunshot wounds.”

Holman, who is also a major with the Oklahoma Army National Guard, was the only officer charged at this time.

His attorney, Kyle Sweet, released a statement to KFOR that said, “We respect the heartache Mr. Edwards’ family is suffering, but we are convinced Sgt. Holman acted lawfully, and we are proud to represent him as we fight these charges in a court of law.”

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Bennie Edwards. Photo courtesy of David A. Threatt

Edwards’ family said he was living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

His daughter and brother released their own statements through their attorneys.

“Our family is devastated by the tragic treatment my father received by police when what he really needed was medical assistance. But we take some comfort today in the fact that an officer will face his day in court so the truth of that horrible encounter can come out,” said Kimberle Thompson, Edwards’ daughter.

“As a Black man whose brother died during an encounter with police, it is difficult to express the hurt and damage this has done to our family. Unfortunately, there are many other Black families who have experienced the same tragedy. It has to stop,” said Greg Edwards, Edwards’ brother.

Their attorneys also released the following statement:

“Romanucci & Blandin, LLC and Ben Crump Law announce that one of the officers involved in the shooting death of Bennie Joe Edwards II in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma will face a manslaughter charge. On December 11, 2020, Edwards was having a mental health episode in a parking lot and three officers on the scene were unable to provide the assistance he needed. The encounter ended with Edwards being tasered three times and shot five times, resulting in his death. An autopsy determined those multiple gunshot wounds were the cause of death, and the manner of death was homicide. The 60-year-oldhad a health history that includes bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Today, Oklahoma City District Attorney David Prater filed documents that charged Sgt. Clifford Holman will be charged with manslaughter. The other two officers will not be charged at this time.

Oklahoma City officials need to take full responsibility for what happened to Bennie Edwards in that parking lot, and today’s manslaughter charge is an important step in that process,”said Attorney Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law. “The continued mistreatment of Black men at the hands of police officers is a national tragedy, and the decision to charge one of the officers reflects the gravity of the situation.”

Accountability is critical if we are ever to rebuild community trust in law enforcement. Officers must be held accountable when they use excessive force and operate outside the bounds of the law and violate a citizen’s fundamental constitutional rights,” said Antonio M. Romanucci, Founding Partner of Romanucci& Blandin, LLC.”