A white cop fatally shot a black off-duty officer in plainclothes who was chasing a robbery suspect in East Harlem last night. The victim, a recently married father of a 1-year-old and 7-month-old from Brooklyn named Omar Edwards, had been an NYPD officer for two years and patrolled housing projects as part of the Housing Bureau Impact Response Team. Police sources say that when Edwards left duty and went to his car around 10:30 p.m., he found his driver's side window broken and a man inside searching for valuables. According to the Post, he called 911 before confronting the thief.
After a scuffle, the suspect, Miguel Santiago, slipped away and Edwards gave chase with his gun drawn. As the two men ran down East 125th Street between First and Second Avenues, a team of three other plainclothes officers came upon them in their car. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters last night that the unnamed white officer who fired on Edwards is a four-year veteran of the department, and he discharged six rounds from his 9-millimeter Glock, hitting him in the arm and chest. One police source tells the Daily News, "This is always a black cop's fear, that he'd be mistaken for a [suspect]."
Another source tells the Times that officers at the scene only learned that Edwards was NYPD "when they ripped open his shirt in an effort to revive him and saw a Police Academy T-shirt." They then found a badge in his pocket; he died less than an hour later at Harlem Hospital Center. Police are now investigating whether the officers identified themselves or ordered Edwards to drop his weapon before the one officer fired. The News's source insists they did identify themselves, yelling, 'Police! Stop! Drop it!" But when Edwards turned around to comply, the other officer opened fire. Santiago, the alleged car thief, was apprehended.
20-year-old bystander Maalik Lane was at a nearby bus stop when he heard more than five gunshots, telling the Times, "I saw police, up to 20 police cars. I was, like, someone is having a shootout with police. The bus driver said, 'Somebody shot the police.' I feared for my life." Another local tells the Post the scene after the shooting "was very chaotic. I heard a lot of police officers. They were hugging each other, and when I asked a cop what happened he said, 'Leave me alone.'" And the Daily News tracked down Edwards's mom at her Brooklyn home, where she said, "I'm hurt that they took my son. That's my baby they took from me. And all I got was his last hug and kiss when he went to work [tonight] and he said, 'Ma, I'll see you when I come home.'"
Mayor Bloomberg told reporters, "The police commissioner and I just talked to Officer Edwards' widow, and the widow's father, who happens to be a 19-year veteran of the NYPD. We both expressed our condolences on behalf of the city. There is nothing you can ever say to bring back the deceased... While we don't know all the details of what happened tonight, this is a tragedy. Rest assured that we will find out exactly what happened here, and we will learn from it so it doesn't happen again."