A Norfolk, Virginia, police officer has been indicted by a grand jury on a voluntary manslaughter charge in the 2014 shooting death of a mentally ill man.
Officer Michael Edington Jr., who is white, is charged in the death of David Latham, a 35-year-old black man who police said threatened officers with a knife at his home on June 6, 2014 after his mother called police for help, according to The Associated Press.
The nine-member grand jury did not indict the 25-year-old Edington on murder or use of firearm in a felony charges, according to state court records.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Faces up to 10 Years in Prison if Convicted
Voluntary manslaughter is a class-5 felony in Virginia punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The grand jury deliberated for two and a half days, hearing testimony from more than a dozen individuals, WTKR reports.
Edington turned himself in on Friday and was released on recognizance bond, according to 13 News Now. He did not have to post a cash bond, because he is not considered a flight risk.
Edington has been on administrative duty since the shooting, meaning he has still been going to work, but is not on the street, 13 News Now reports.
Latham’s family said in a statement to WAVY:
The family is pleased the criminal case will go forward. They are looking for justice for their son. They are pleased the grand jury found there is sufficient evidence to indict, but they know there is still work to be done. The criminal case will be a public trial. We feel it is good because everyone will be able to know what happened. We are pleased the court system seems to be working. From everyone knowing what happened here, we can prevent this from happening to other families.
2. Latham Was Suffering From Schizophrenia
Latham’s mother said her son was suffering from schizophrenia and had recently stopped taking his medication not long before the shooting, the AP reports. His mother said police had been called to the house before to help get Latham medical treatment.
“I called the police and told them that we needed police out here, that David was suffering from a mental illness,” his mother, Audrey Latham, told WTKR after the shooting. “I wish I never called them.”
According to the Virginian-Pilot, police were called to the Latham house at least eight times between when they moved there in March 2013 and the shooting.
Latham’s mother told the newspaper she did not recognize Edington. She the officers usually knew Latham and how to handle him.
3. Latham Was Shot 9 Times, Including Twice in the Back
Within minutes of his arrival at Latham’s home, Edington shot him nine times, including twice in the back, the Virginian-Pilot reported. Latham had been in a fight with his brother and pulled out a knife. He opened the door to the officers while still holding the knife, the newspaper reported.
Edington was one of several officers to respond to the home, police said.
“He was just trigger happy,” Audrey Latham told WTKR. “I don’t know if he was fearful or what, but he didn’t give my son any time to think. They shot him like a dog.”
4. Edington Is the First Virginia Officer in Recent Memory to Be Charged in a Shooting Death
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said “not in my knowledge” when asked by the Virginian-Pilot if any officers before Edington in Virginia had been charged in an on-duty fatal shooting.
Edington is the son of a Norfolk police detective, Michael Sr.. His attorney, Jeff Swartz, told News Now 13 they might seek a change in venue.
“We are proud to represent Edington in proving his innocence,” Swartz said.
“It’s disappointing, but being in law enforcement, we put our trust in the judicial system on a daily basis, and the special grand jury found they had enough evidence to go with an indictment,” said Keith Winingear, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Commodore Lodge in Norfolk told the Virginian-Pilot. “Now we just have to wait for the whole judicial system to take its course and put our trust and confidence in that.”
5. The City’s Chief Asked the Public ‘Not to Rush to Judgment’
In a statement, Police Chief Michael Goldsmith said of the indictment:
This incident was tragic for the family of Mr. Latham and the City of Norfolk. I ask the public not rush to judgment and exercise patience while the case proceeds through the justice system. Norfolk police officers will continue to work hard to protect our communities and build relationships with our neighbors. These officers put their lives on the line every day and have my full support as we move forward.
“The Special Grand Jury has reviewed the facts of this case and rendered its decision. The process followed is in accordance with the law and deserves our respect,” Mayor Paul D. Fraim said in a statement. “Under Chief Goldsmith’s professional leadership, our public safety officers continue the difficult work of preserving peace and justice for all in our diverse community and they have my support. I also want to express our condolences to the Latham family for their tragic loss.”