An off-duty rookie cop chasing a suspected car thief in East Harlem with his gun drawn was shot and killed Thursday night when an officer mistook him for a criminal.
"Police! Stop! Drop it!" cops from the 25th Precinct shouted at Omar Edwards, 25.
As he started to turn toward him - the gun still in his hand - an officer opened fire, sources said.
The officer involved in the shooting is white, Edwards is black and had no visible NYPD identification on him, sources said. It was unclear if Edwards identified himself.
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"This is always a black cop's fear, that he'd be mistaken for a [suspect]," a source said.
His father couldn't fathom how such a fatal mistake could happen.
"If a police officer sees someone with a gun, you don't just fire without asking questions or trying to apprehend the person," said Ricardo Edwards, 72. "If the person was firing at a police officer, I understand."
"It's a horror for everyone involved. No one comes out unscathed," a police source said.
One dejected cop said Edwards "just became a new father. He took some personal time so he could take the baby to North Carolina to meet his folks."
Edwards' mother, Natalia Harding, said her son had just married his girlfriend, Danielle Glen, last month at City Hall. They have two kids - 11/2-year-old Xavier and 7-month-old Keanua.
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"I'm hurt that they took my son. That's my baby they took from me. And all I got was his last hug and kiss when he went to work [tonight] and he said, 'Ma, I'll see you when I come home,' " Natalia Harding said between sobs Friday morning at her Brooklyn apartment.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Edwards, who had been on the force less than two years and worked out of a Manhattan housing unit, had left work about 10:30 p.m.
He was in street clothes as he walked toward his car parked about a block away on Second Ave. between E. 124th and E. 125th St., where he saw Miguel Goitia rummaging through the vehicle. The driver's side window was busted out.
Edwards grabbed Goitia, who managed to slip out of his sweater and escape Edwards' grip, Kelly said.
Gun drawn, Edwards gave chase.
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At the same time, three plainclothes officers in an unmarked car saw Edwards running down the street. The car made a U-turn, and one of the officers, a white cop with more than four years on the job, got out and fired six shots - hitting Edwards twice, once in the left arm and once in the chest, Kelly said.
Edwards did not fire his weapon.
Maalik Lane, 20, who was walking nearby, said suddenly he heard shots.
"More than five, boom, boom, boom, boom. Then there were just a lot of police blocking the streets."
Mayor Bloomberg, at a press conference at Harlem Hospital, said he expressed his sorrow to Edwards' wife.
"Nothing that you can ever say will bring back the deceased. He was there protecting the rest of us. We will find out what happened," Bloomberg said. "This is a tragedy. We'll see what we can learn from it."
Cops discovered Edwards was one of them when rescue crews cut open his shirt to treat the bleeding and saw a police academy shirt. They then searched his pockets and found his shield, sources said.
Investigators said the anti-crime cops arrested the car-theft suspect Goitia.
Edwards' mother said her son's dream was to be a cop.
"Ever since he was a little kid, he wanted to be a police officer. Something I didn't want, but it was his choice and he loved what he was doing. He loved helping other people," Harding said, noting she always worried about his safety.