Civil lawsuit filed for police shooting death of Bennie Edwards
Ben Crump Law, Romanucci & Blandin, LLC and Graves McLain, PLLC together announce the filing of a federal lawsuit for the police shooting death of Bennie Joe Edwards II in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The complaint details that on December 11, 2020, Edwards was having a mental health episode in a parking lot and three officers on the scene were unable to provide the assistance he needed. The 60-year-old was experiencing homelessness at the time and had a health history that included bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Mr. Edwards peacefully asked the officers to go away. When he tried to walk away instead, he was shot multiple times. The encounter ended with Edwards being tasered three times and shot five times. An autopsy determined those multiple gunshot wounds were the cause of death, and the manner of death was homicide.
Further, the lawsuit details policies of the Oklahoma City Police Department that instruct officers to “move slowly,” “carefully assess the situation,” and “take time” when they encounter a citizen in mental distress. In this situation, an officer pulled his service weapon on Mr. Edwards only 25 seconds after arriving on the scene.
Oklahoma City District Attorney David Prater recently filed a criminal manslaughter charge against Sgt. Clifford Holman for Mr. Edwards’ death. The other two officers have not been charged.
The federal lawsuit was filed December 1, 2021, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Plaintiffs in the suit are Kimberle Thompson, one of Mr. Edwards’ daughters and Juanita Hill, his mother, on behalf of all of his family members. Defendants include Oklahoma City Sergeant Keith Duroy, Sergeant Clifford Holman and the City of Oklahoma City. The multi-count lawsuit alleges the use of excessive force, the City’s municipal liability for its officers acting under color of law and for the department’s patterns and practices.
“Oklahoma City’s Police Department has a custom and practice of using excessive force disproportionally against minorities, unarmed and mentally ill individuals and what happened to Bennie Edwards was truly shameful. He was in emotional distress at the time the officers encountered him, and instead of responding with compassion and care, they treated him with aggression, tasers and bullets,” said Attorney Ben Crump of Ben Crump Law. “This is certainly an individual tragedy for Mr. Edwards and those who loved him, but sadly reflects the continued mistreatment of Black men at the hands of police officers across America.”
“It is our family’s sincere hope that this lawsuit will bring some justice for my father, who was a gentle soul in need of help that day. He took great pleasure in selling flowers and meant no harm to anyone, and what happened to him was horrifying and inexcusable,” said Kimberle Thompson, Edwards’ daughter.
“The tragedy here is that the officers not only were improperly trained and ill-equipped to navigate Mr. Edwards’ mental health needs, but they also failed to render medical aid to him once they tasered and shot him. This tragic encounter was completely preventable,” said Romanucci & Blandin Partner Bhavani K. Raveendran.
“Police officers are here to ‘protect and serve’ - and that includes the homeless and the mentally ill. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle these encounters. Gunning down a person experiencing a mental health crisis, who is frightened and running away, is against any norms of policing and basic human decency. We hope this lawsuit, and other like it, will aid in stopping this all-too-common brand of tragedy,” said local counsel Partner Rachel Gusman of Graves McLain.
About Ben Crump Law
Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump and his national network of specialized attorneys have spearheaded a legal movement to better protect the rights of marginalized citizens. He has led landscape-changing civil rights cases and represented clients in a wide range of areas including civil rights, personal injury, labor and employment, class actions, and more. Ben Crump Law is dedicated to holding the powerful accountable. For more, visit BenCrump.com or call (800) 935-8111.
About Romanucci & Blandin, LLC
Romanucci & Blandin is a Chicago-based national trial practice committed to fighting for victims of negligence, abuse and wrongful death. Founded in 1998, we have decades of history securing verdicts and settlements for our clients - many for millions of dollars and others record-setting awards. Our expertise ranges from medical malpractice and sexual abuse cases involving individual or institutional negligence to civil rights, police misconduct and workers compensation, making Romanucci & Blandin a valuable legal resource to individuals and groups of people who have been injured by others’ wrongdoing. Referring attorneys and clients say several factors differentiate our firm: Our record of success, depth of experience, talented and dedicated legal team, tireless preparation and strategic use of communications to fight for the rights of those whose lives have been changed forever. We are different from other personal injury firms in that our work does not stop when a verdict or settlement is secured. We are often inspired by our clients’ experiences and commit resources to create change in our communities. For more information about Romanucci & Blandin, please visit www.rblaw.net or call (312) 458-1000.
About Graves McLain PLLC
Graves McLain is a top-rated Oklahoma law firm with extensive experience in serious injury claims arising from medical negligence, trucking and auto accidents, nursing home abuse, brain injuries, civil right violations, and defective products, pharmaceuticals and/or medical devices.
You don’t have to be wealthy to have the best representation. From the moment your case is signed, Graves McLain devotes all of the resources of its entire firm. Your case is prepared for trial from the very beginning. At Graves McLain, your case is put in the best position to secure the best result possible. Whether resolving the matter in or out of court, the entire team at Graves McLain understands the intricacies of these very specialized cases. They don’t take shortcuts. If a lawsuit is necessary, they pursue litigation aggressively so that your case is guaranteed the best outcome. Graves McLain has secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of its clients and their families. For more information about Graves McLain please visit gravesmclain.com or call (539) 286-0559.