JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A $1.9 million settlement announcement Thursday marked the end of litigation in the 2012 officer involved shooting of Davinian Williams. Davinian was unarmed.
Officer Jeff Edwards who pulled the trigger said in 2012 he fired into Davinian's car when the traffic stop suspect made a sudden reaching movement downward.
Later, Edwards would testify in his wrongful termination hearings that he acted according to exactly how he was trained. During his deposition in the wrongful death case filed by Davinian's family, Edwards said under oath this incident uncovered a miscommunication between trainers and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office officials.
"We were being trained differently from what the agency thought we were being trained to do," said Edwards in his deposition. "If they had taught me and trained me, 'you will retreat to cover 100 percent all the time,' I would have done that that night. I was trained to approach the car, to use that door post for cover."
Edwards never faced criminal charges in Davinian's death. JSO terminated the officer's employment in 2013 for his use of deadly force. On appeal he was reinstated, after showing he followed police policy. He would later resign from the force.
In a letter to Davinian's family Thursday, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams offered his "deepest condolences" for their loss and his hopes for the future of Davinian's two children.
The letter also outlines eleven actions taken by JSO from June 2014 to the present, including an increase in accountability for those monitoring JSO's Early Warning System that tracks problems with officers. Williams said the attention to training and policies is responsive to the "tragic encounter between Officer Edwards and Mr. Williams."
Though the Early Warning System was in effect prior to the 2012 incident, attorney Rufus Pennington who represented Davinian's family in the lawsuit, said the program wasn't being used.
Pennington said Edwards had several 'use of force' incidents involving the use of a TASER gun and complaints filed against him by citizens. The EWS system should have detected a pattern, said Pennington.
"From what I've read [about EWS]...it was absolutely something they should have flagged me," testified Edwards. "I wasn't really familiar with it [before the incident.] When that got brought up, I was pretty much blind sided. I was like, early warning system? EWS? What is that?"
Pennington credits JSO for handling the closure of this case with acknowledgment and action.
"I think it's extraordinarily rare for a defendant to settle a case like this and then to issue an apology letter acknowledging the missteps," Pennington said. "Usually when money changes hands, the paying party says we deny any wrongdoing and we're only settling to avoid litigation. In this case they fessed up to the problem and identified them and have at least said they are going to try to correct them."
He also said for Davinian Williams' family the hope that other police forces nationally will follow suit means more to them than the seven figure settlement.