By Jennifer Peltz
NEW YORK — A plainclothes policeman who drew his gun while chasing someone he had found rummaging through his car was shot and killed by a fellow officer who was driving by and saw the pursuit, the police commissioner said.
Commissioner Raymond Kelly said 25-year-old Omar J. Edwards died after being shot late Thursday within blocks of the Harlem housing police station where he worked.
The shooter was white and Edwards was black, a fact that could raise questions about police use of deadly force in a minority community. And in recent years there have been several cases of off-duty policemen in the New York City area being shot and killed by other officers.
Edwards had just finished his shift around 10:30 p.m. when he headed to his car and saw that the driver's-side window had been smashed and a man was going through the vehicle, Kelly said.
Edwards struggled with the man, who got away from him by slipping out of his sweater, Kelly said. Edwards chased the man up two streets with his gun drawn, he said.
A sergeant and two plainclothes officers in an unmarked police car saw the pursuit and made a U-turn to follow the men, Kelly said. The officers were from the neighboring 25th Precinct anti-crime unit. One of the officers jumped out of the car and fired six times, hitting Edwards twice - once in the arm and once in the chest, he said.
Kelly said Edwards did not fire his weapon. He died at the Harlem Hospital Center about an hour after the shooting.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his radio show Friday that investigators were reviewing security tapes and interviewing witnesses, and said the shooting was not deliberate. Investigators were also questioning the man Edwards had been chasing.
"The only thing that can come out of this is to improve procedures so perhaps it doesn't happen again," Bloomberg said. "We all know policing is a dangerous job and accidents happen when people have guns in their hands, even legal guns in this case which they are authorized and trained to use."
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Kelly said Edwards had been on the force for two years and worked in the housing bureau. He was recently married and had two young children. His father-in-law has been a police officer for 19 years.