JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville police officer fired by Sheriff John Rutherford for his involvement in a shooting has been reinstated to his job following a labor arbitration hearing.
Officer Jeff Edwards fired his weapon seven times during a traffic stop on the Arlington Expressway, killing 35-year-old Davinian Williams (pictured below) last May.
Edwards thought Williams was reaching for his gun, but no weapon was found in Williams' car.
A labor arbitration judge selected jointly by the city and the Fraternal Order of Police has ruled that Williams acted reasonably under the circumstances, saying he was justified to use deadly force because Williams refused to obey his orders to put his hands up.
Williams' family and friends are extremely disappointed that Edwards is getting his job back.
"He's in the wrong profession," family friend Ricky Sumlar said. "Anyone who fires a weapon seven times without seeing a weapon is in the wrong profession."
Sumlar said he can't believe the officer who killed his unarmed friend will be back in police uniform. He calls it a public disservice.
"I would hate to have that cop stop me or anyone else, knowing he has a an itchy trigger finger. That's what it is," Sumlar said.
The judge said Edwards had a well-founded fear that his life was in danger and ruled that the killing would not have happened if Williams had complied with the officer's commands to raise his hands and get out of the car.
"He was dealing with a suspect that, for whatever reason, wasn't listening as he was barking commands at him for 90 seconds and then decided to reach down to the floorboard. It's tragic," said Tad Delegal, Edwards' lawyer.
Delegal said Edwards made the right decision to open fire rather than retreat and risk being shot by an uncooperative suspect. He said Edwards wants to be returned back to street patrol and, for months now, has wondered why he was fired in the first place.
"He's really struggled because he has not understood why it claimed he did something wrong in this situation," Delegal said.
Rutherford issued the following statement Monday:
"I believe the arbitrator, Mr. Bowden, made grievous mistakes and assumptions that lead to the decision ordering the reinstatement of Officer Jeff Edwards. The same grievous mistakes occurred in an earlier decision to reinstate an officer I fired for a DUI. She was later arrested (again) after causing damage to several others' vehicles, after the arbitrator made a similar decision to reinstate. I will be looking at my options for challenging this decision."
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