OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A viral video of the shooting of a homeless man in front of a pawn shop in Oklahoma City sparked immediate protests Friday evening.
Bennie Edwards, a homeless man in his late 50s, was identified by family members after he was shot and killed by police.
Shortly after noon Friday, officers were called to the Extra Cash Gold & Loan on the corner of West Hefner Road and Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I believe the store had a problem with him standing there,” said Oklahoma City Police Capt. Dan Stewart. “I don’t know the specifics of that, but I know that is why we were called there. We responded to a 9-1-1 call that there was a disturbance, that this gentleman was causing a disturbance.”
Stewart said when the officer arrived he called for backup because Edwards came towards him with a knife.
After two more officers arrived, Capt. Stewart said they approached Edwards again. He said even though Edwards was told multiple times to drop the knife, he didn’t and that he was still combative.
He also said they exhausted non-lethal efforts to subdue Edwards, trying pepper spray and a Taser, but that neither were effective.
“Things happen quickly and this whole situation happened quickly, and the officers had to respond with the information they had at the time, and it was very fluid, it was happening very fast,” Stewart said. “I mean the stress level was extremely high. They did what they felt like they had to do at the time.”
But after seeing a video of the shooting that went viral on social media, Edwards’ family said they see it differently.
“I’ve seen the video. My brother, he’s paranoid schizophrenic and they rushed him. When they was coming at him, he got scared and started running and they started shooting,” said Edwards’ brother, Gregory Edwards.
Because he was living with bipolar schizophrenia, his family said he chose to live on the street. They described him as a gentle man who was known throughout the community for selling flowers on the corner.
“He probably thought that he was in danger. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. And had they stopped and talked to him, they would have [EXPLETIVE] known…they would have known that,” said Edwards’ niece, Ameerah Gaines.
Bennie Edwards’ relatives joined the growing number of demonstrators, some of whom were pepper sprayed by police, protesting Edwards’ death Friday evening.
“Everyday that I wake up, somebody that looks like me is becoming a hashtag, and it is getting out of control,” Gaines said. “And now it’s my uncle.”
Edwards’ death is under investigation. The officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave.
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