At­tor­neys clash over what hap­pened be­fore of­fi­cer killed man

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ben Fin­ley

NORFOLK, VA. >> At­tor­neys in Vir­ginia clashed in court on Tues­day over whether a white po­lice of­fi­cer used ex­ces­sive force when he shot and killed a men­tally ill black man who was hold­ing a knife.

Dur­ing open­ing state­ments for the of­fi­cer’s man­slaugh­ter trial, pros­e­cu­tor Greg Un­der­wood turned to­ward the jury hold­ing a card­board replica of the knife, point­ing it down­ward at his side. He said David Latham made no ad­vances to­ward Norfolk Of­fi­cer Michael Edington.

“(Edington) told him to drop the knife four times,” Un­der­wood said. “Less than five or six sec­onds af­ter he said ‘Drop the knife!’ for the fourth time —boom, boom, boom.”

But lead de­fense at­tor­ney Jef­frey Swartz said that’s not the whole story. Swartz also held the card­board replica be­fore the jury and said Latham moved it around. Latham also threat­ened that he was go­ing to hurt “some­body,” Swartz said.

And then cru­cially, Swartz said, Latham’s foot moved. Latham weighed 273 pounds and was stand­ing above Edington, who was on the porch stairs of a house. The of­fi­cer had only so much time to stop an at­tack, Swartz said.

“(Edington) be­lieved (Latham) was go­ing to do ex­actly what he said he was go­ing to do,” Swartz said.

Edington and Latham came face-to-face af­ter the of­fi­cer re­sponded to a call about a fight break­ing out be­tween Latham, 35, and fam­ily mem­bers over a bag of potato chips. Latham grabbed a foot-long butcher knife, prompt­ing both his mother and brother to call 911 and flee.

Of­fi­cers ar­rived to find Latham, who suf­fered from schizophre­nia, in the door­way clutch­ing the knife.

The trial be­gins amid vo­cal protests of fa­tal po­lice shoot­ings of black men in Ok­la­homa and North Carolina. It’s also one of sev­eral tri­als in re­cent years of of­fi­cers who al­legedly used ex­ces­sive force on duty.

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