JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer who fatally shot an unarmed motorist was reinstated and his firing overturned by an arbitration court on Monday.
Officer Jeffrey Edwards was placed on desk duty after the May 2012 shooting in Arlington, in which he fired 7 times through the rear driver's side window of Davinian Williams' vehicle. Williams, 35, was unarmed but later found to be in possession of drugs.
Edwards said Williams refused commands to place his hands on the steering wheel, and moved in a way that made him fear for his safety. Williams was struck 6 times and died at the scene.
The State Attorney's Office found no criminal conduct on Edwards' part, but JSO fired him last September 2013 after an internal review found he'd violated the agency's deadly force policy.
However, on Monday an arbitration judge concluded that "Williams [who had a lengthy criminal record] was no stranger to law enforcement and should have known that resisting a police officer more than not can lead to serious consequences."
He further found that Edwards "acted reasonably under the circumstances." Edwards will be reinstated and receive back pay and benefits totaling roughly $40,000.
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"I can state that Officer Edwards is extremely pleased that the arbitrator carefully evaluated the facts and found that Officer Edwards acted appropriately," Edwards' attorney Tad Delegal said shortly after the ruling.
Sheriff John Rutherford issued the following response to Edwards' reinstatement.
"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."