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Sheriff: Officer decision 'negligent' and warrants termination
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Sheriff: Officer decision 'negligent' and warrants termination

Sheriff: Officer decision 'negligent' and warrants termination
Photo Credit: Kevin Rincon
Sheriff John Rutherford

Sheriff: Officer decision 'negligent' and warrants termination

He had been cleared by the State Attorney’s Office for his use of deadly force, but now one officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office could still lose his job.

A newly released internal investigation in to Officer Jeffrey Edwards highlights several questionable decisions made May 9, 2012, when a traffic stop escalated in to a deadly shooting.

WOKV has obtained the 32 page Internal Affairs investigation which began when a Response to Resistance Board who initially examined the incident showed concern about whether Edwards operated within written directive and in accordance with training.

Edwards tells investigators he saw a vehicle driving out of the Arlingwood Apartments in Bert Road around 2:13 AM on May 9th in a way he deemed suspicious. He saw that vehicle both run a stop sign and fail to completely stop at a red light, leading Edwards to initiate the traffic stop.

The investigation says he admits to failing to introduce himself according to protocol- which would include his name and the reason for the stop. Edwards says he didn’t feel he had the opportunity because the suspect, Davinian Williams, didn’t appear to be complying with Edwards’ verbal orders, which included to show his hands.

Edwards demanded multiple times for Williams to show his hands, and he told investigators he instead saw Williams bobbing and seeming to search for something under his seat or make an attempt to hide something.  Edwards changed his position relative to the suspect’s car several times, used his tactical lighting to obscure the suspect’s view of the officer, and eventually heightened his “awareness level” when he started to believe the suspect was doing more than just looking for a wallet he may have stowed under his seat.

He soon began to believe there was an impending “gun battle” and “ambush”, and rather than retreating- which Edwards says he didn’t feel he could safely do- he approached the car from a different angle where he believed he would have “the element of surprise”, according to the investigation.

When Williams made a sudden movement dipping toward the floorboards, Edwards believed Williams would start attacking him and fired his gun seven times, hitting Williams six times. He then called for emergency response and a supervisor, however, he neither issued a request for medical assistance for a seriously injured person, nor did he notify anyone approaching the scene that he had fired his gun.

Investigators spoke with several people, including other officers who responded to the scene and past and present supervisors. Most agreed that there were questions surrounding some of Edwards decisions.

Specifically, a memo sent from Sheriff John Rutherford in response to the investigation found Edwards failed to update dispatch about his change in location while pulling over the suspect.  Rutherford further says Edwards did not attempt to greet the driver properly, issue a deadly force warning or retreat while awaiting backup. 

“… he (Edwards) had already determined in his mind that the suspect was committed to ambushing him with a handgun,” Rutherford writes.

All these factors combined led Rutherford to order Edwards be terminated. There was no gun found with Williams, but rather drugs and paraphernalia.

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