Mom of cop in friendly-fire death speaks out

August 16, 2009 4:07:16 PM PDT
The mother of a police officer shot dead by a fellow cop is now calling for an independent investigation. And Natalie Harding, speaking out for the first time, is not the only one calling for a closer look at her son's death.

Officer Omar Edwards died in May after being shot by a fellow cop in a friendly-fire incident. In the wake of a grand jury's decision not to indict that other officer, a local law enforcement group insists the investigation was incomplete.

Harding spoke fewer than 75 words. But each one was filled with the pain of losing a son and the bitter realization that no one may ever be held to account for that loss.

"I don't want to see my son's death go in vain," she said. "And neither do I like to see another mother suffer the way I am now."

Harding, along with 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care and other community leaders, on Sunday called for Governor David Paterson to appoint an independent investigator to exam the incident.

They say the fact that a grand jury failed to indict Officer Andrew Dunton, who apparently mistook the plainclothed Edwards as an armed suspect, proves that the District Attorney and the NYPD have white-washed their investigations.

"It's clear there's evidence that's not been presented," said Anthony Miranda, of the Latino Officers' Assocation. "Clear that information is not being shared with the public."

There are three surveillance cameras in East Harlem near where the shooting took place. Yet, the black officers group says that video from those cameras was never presented to the grand jury. That, they say, further deepens their suspicions about the investigation.

"The cameras, we believe, were a major part of this investigation," said Noel Leader, of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. "If the cameras weren't working, why weren't they working?"

But the District Attorney insists his office conducted an exhaustive investigation.

That included testimony from 20 police, medical and civilian witnesses, as well as the submission of 68 different documents. The grand jury concluded that Officer Dunton identified himself and yelled loudly to Edwards not to move and to drop his gun. Instead, the DA says Edwards turned and pointed his gun at Dunton, who then fired six shots.

"They're not capable of conducting a fair and impartial investigation when a police officer is involved," Leader said.

Harding and those with her say if a truly independent investigator comes to the same conclusion as the DA, they will then accept that what happened was a tragic mistake and not a crime.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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