Video raises questions after police shooting

June 9, 2009 3:37:46 PM PDT
The cell phone video was taken by two men who say they were there the night Officer Edwards was shot and killed. They say they witnessed some of the events that led up to the shooting. What they say they saw raises questions about police actions as the investigation began.

The two men say they were the ones who used a cell phone camera to roll on the seconds and minutes after Officer Omar Edwards was down on the pavement at East 125th Street.

They gave us their account after we agreed to conceal their identity.

"We were at the light," one of them explained.

The men say that night they were at the corner. They were there as Officer Edwards chased after a suspect who had broken into his car.

They claim they did not see the shooting because their view was blocked by another vehicle, but they say they heard the gunshots. They pulled up to the scene of the shooting and that's when they started recording.

They say Officer Edwards was on the ground. It is two 30-second clips of what was happening and, according to them, not happening at the scene.

"We pull up and then we see a cop handcuffing him and leaving him there," one said.

"They just left him. Didn't give him no aid. Told the officers not to touch a gun. It was a silver gun. He was about 10 to 15 feet away from his gun," the other said. "He was just on the floor cuffed. Face in a ditch, in the gutter... They weren't paying attention to him."

Their account, coupled with this video, raises questions about NYPD procedure. Did the responding officers follow it? And did critical time elapse before someone helped Officer Edwards?

Shortly after the shooting, police acknowledge that responding officers at the scene did not find out that the person on the ground was a fellow officer until someone rendered aid. But when did that happen?

"One of the first things you want to do is assess the individual's condition," John Shane said.

Shane, a professor at John Jay College, looked at the video. He's a former captain with Newark police who's written department policy on responding to situations like these.

"It's difficult to tell (if enough attention was paid to the person on the ground) because the video begins rolling at the point where the individual is already handcuffed. So we don't know what evaluation they've done at this point. I would say it is inconclusive at best," Shane said.

Nonetheless, he says, the video could potentially add value to this investigation.

But police did not know it existed. According to the witnesses, shortly after they stopped recording, a uniformed NYPD officer told them to leave.

Two potential witnesses possibly turned away?

"Holding on to witnesses is extremely important," said Shane.

How important are two potential witnesses to an investigation like this?

"Very crucial. Very crucial, especially when we don't know how many other witnesses there may be. You don't let anybody go," Shane said.

The two witnesses drove away from the scene and took the cell phone video with them.

They say they didn't realize how important it was until Officer Edward's funeral last week. And that is when they contacted eyewitness news.

"I've never seen anything like that," said one.

We showed the officials with the district attorney's office and the NYPD the video. They would not comment.

Last week at his funeral, Officer Edwards was posthumously promoted to detective.