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"Friendly Fire" Costs Black Police Officer His Life

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.
Omar Edwards

A Black off-duty housing police officer lost his life to what some are calling a case of mistaken identity.

Around 10:30 pm Thursday night on 125th Street in East Harlem. Omar Edwards, 25, after finishing his shift, saw a man, identified as Miguel Santiago, attempting to steal from his car. Edwards, dressed in plain clothes, confronted Santiago and a struggled ensued. Santiago broke the struggle and began to flee on foot.At the same time a plain-clothes anti-crime team, driving an unmarked car, spotted Edwards chasing Santiago, with his gun out, and followed him. According to investigators and various sources, 30-year-old officer Andrew Dunton, who is white, got out of his car and opened fire on Edwards six times connecting twice. One in the arm and once in the chest. Edwards was pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital. He was not wearing a bulletproof vest.Edwards, who became a newly wed last week, was on his way home to celebrate his wife's birthday.The Rev. Al Sharpton has already weighed in calling on an independent investigator to look into the matter. Police say that Santiago is in custody. Harlem clergy and community leaders held a vigil outside of the housing precinct for Edwards early on Friday. Another one was planned at Wakefield Baptist Church in Edwards' neighborhood of Ocean Hill, Brooklyn Friday night.Edwards joined the New York Police Department in 2007. His father-in-law is 19-year veteran of the NYPD.