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A2 Residents Protest Police Shooting Did Larry Edwards Have To Die?

A2 Residents Protest Police Shooting Did Larry Edwards Have To Die? image A2 Residents Protest Police Shooting Did Larry Edwards Have To Die? image
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Larry Edwards died for $39, and a lot of people want to know why. A policeman's bullet killed Larry as he fled from the attempted robbery of a Broadway Ave. convenience store with companion Richard Bullock. Both youths were unarmed, and the pólice gunfire that slew Larry and wounded Richard has redrawn the old battle Mnes between pólice and the black community. Pólice Chief Walter Krasny, a 37year veteran of the forcé and widely touted as a likely Republican candidate for Washtenaw County Sheriff n November, claims his men were "acting within the scope of the law in the apprehension of a fleeing felon." He says they conformed with department firearms regulations. But many among the predominantly black, and predominantly angry, crowd gathered at City Council February 12 were callingit murder, and demanding the suspension of Patrolmen Thomas Pressley and George Anderson. "I just can't see a kid losing his life in a well-lit area, running away," stated Paul Wasson, spokesman for the newly-formed People United For Justice (PU)). PUJ sattempting to arrange a bail fund for Richard Bullock, as well as to (in their own words) "fight the long hard battle for justice" in the case. Although some questions remain unanswered, at this point a fairly clear picture has emerged of what happened at the Broadway Pumpand-Pantry in the early evening hours of February 8. Robert Edwards, 18, told pólice that he, his brother Larry, 19, and 18-year-old Richard Bullock had been together in the early part of the evening, and that Larry and Richard had discussed a robbery of some sort. Robert did not know of either one having any kind of weapon. Robert did not particípate directly n the robbery attempt at Pumpand-Pantry. However, he told police he was nearby at 7:38 pm, when his brother Larry, apparently simulating a gun with a finger in his coat pocket, kept the sales clerk at bay while emptying cash register receipts into his pockets. Sales clerk Samuel Poston, however, had managed to cali pólice just before Larry showed his "gun." Dashing out of the store, Poston was in the parking lot when Officers Pressley and Anderson pulled up in front of the store and jumped out of thek car with guns drawn. At the moment the policemen arrived, Larry and Richard jumped out of the store through a window that they had broken to enter, and ran towards the alley behind Pumpand-Pantry and the neighboring Broadway Market. The officers gave chase, yelling for the youths to halt. Patrolman Pressley fired a first shot with his .357 magnum revolver at Larry Edwards and missed. But just as Edwards reached the sidewalk along Moore St., he was simultaneously struck by a blast from Anderson's shotgun and a second slug from Pressley'sgun. He feil with wounds of the head and neck, and died nine hours later in St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. Meanwhile, Patrolman Anderson ran after Richard Bullock and brought him down with a second shotgun blast just as Bullock tried to cut through a yard near the intersection of Moore St. and Pontiac. Bullock was also taken to St. Joseph Hospital, treated for a minor wound from a single shotgun pellet, and turned over to County Jail. He is now n jail awaiting arraignment in Circuit Court on February 27, having been unable to post $25,000 bond set by District Judge Thomassen. The Ann Arbor Pólice Department has a weapons policy, based on state law, which states that firearms may be used in a felony case if "all other reasonable immediate means to make the arrest have been attempted and have failed." The policy also requires that firearms be used only if the arrest cannot be made otherwise. It further stipulates that "mere suspicion that a fleeing person committed a felony" sn't enough to permit use of a gun. Much of the dispute over Larry Edwards' death has centered around whether officers Pressley and Anderson violated these procedures or not. "I think the shooting was plain wrong," Councilwoman Liz Keogh (Dem., 1 st Ward) told the Sun. "The policy clearly states, 'when other means (of making an arrest) are exhausted' and they weren't." Pólice Chief Walter Krasny, however, reached the opposite conclusión. He pointed out in his report to the City Administrator that Pressley and Anderson saw Bullock and hdwards jump through the broken store window, and thus had probable cause to believe they committed the crime, not mere suspicion. Krasny also claimed that the officers had exhausted all other means to arrest the youths before opening fire. On this point, however, his boss, City Administra tor Sylvester Murray, disagreed. "In my personal opinión," Murray stated n a memo to City Council, "because the área was compressed and relatively well lit, and because it was reasonable to assume that other units were following behind them, who could assist n a chase, the officers should have pursued the chase further before using firearms." In this dispute, Mayor Albert Wheeler has played a new and uncomfortable role as middleman. As an NAACP activist, he had been accustomed to leading angry groups before City Council and to castigating city administrations for racial njustices and pólice abuses. "Being a black man with years of experience in the área of human rightsand social justice," Wheeler told the gathering at the Council meeting, "I can understand the concern, I will listen to t respectfully, and I will work with the Council and other public officials to institute new policies, procedures, and continued on page 29 Dïd Larry Edwards Have to Die? . programs designed to elimínate any real or perceived differences n city law enforcement practices [between treatment of blacksand whites]." People United for Justice- many of whose leaders are former colleagues of the Mayor from his Model Cities days- has slammed Wheeler for failing to suspend the two policemen or set up an independent investigaron of the shootings: "The City Manager, Mayor, Chief of Pólice, the Council and the Courts have shaken the confidence of the entire community n what they cali justice." Whether City Council or the Mayor will take any further action on Edwards' death remains to be seen. What may come out of this incident, however, is a general revisión of the City's weapons policy, to clarify- and also restrict- the circumstances under which pólice can fire their guns. Councilwoman Kathy Kozachenko (Socialist Human Rights Party, 2nd Ward) has advocated complete disarmament of the pólice, while Councilwoman Keogh would allow pólice to shoot only when their own lives are directly threatened. However, it is unlikely that the other Democrats will support either plan, and several seem not to have made up their minds on what they want in a new gun policy. One sad irony that emerges s that Council faced a similar situation last August, when pólice shot an unarmed juvenile fleeing from the scène of a burglary. terestingly, Officer Pressley was one of two policemen on the scène, but didn't fire his weapon.) At that time, Council set up a committee to review city gun regulations and bring proposed revisions back to Council. This committee never got off the ground. Had it accomplished its task, Larry Edwards might be alive today. David Goodman, a former SUN sta ff member, is a free-lance writer living in Ann Arbor.