Justice For Bennie Edwards

What Oklahoma City should be demanding to receive it.

Peyton Benge
16 min readJan 4, 2021


An illustrational tribute to Bennie Edwards created by Oklahom City Vietnamese American artist Tien Pham.

On December 11th, 2020, Master Sgt. Keith Duroy and Sgt. Clifford Holman of the Oklahoma City Police Department shot and killed a man by the name of Bennie Edwards.

If you aren’t already aware of this incident, Bennie Edwards was a sixty-year-old Black man previously “diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.”

Police were called to respond to a disturbance at a strip mall in Northeast OKC. There, Edwards was quickly surrounded by six officers.

In distress, Bennie initially ran towards one of the officers. As he ran, the group of officers responded with immediate gunfire, and eventually, shot Edwards three times in the back as he fled in fear for his life. Officers report Bennie had a knife at the scene, but the public has yet to see the police body-cam footage or video from the local businesses to provide validation of the police department’s claim.

By the end of the incident, Bennie Edwards would be left dead on the sidewalk uncovered for multiple hours, where Oklahoma City Free Press reports police “used mace and took out shotguns loaded with less lethal rounds,” to intimidate a crowd protesting the scene of Edwards’ death.

Watch the videos for yourself and come to your own conclusions. I will not be sharing any bystander footage here. However, what I will share with you is my own personal opinion:

Based on the footage I’ve watched, I believe Bennie Edwards should undoubtedly still be alive today.

So, what can be done to ensure Bennie’s wrongful death is met with righteous justice?

Next Steps

Protests have gathered across the city and a petition is currently circling the web, but these responses alone will not deliver the justice that Bennie Edwards and every other human life ended by a bullet fired from an OKCPD officer’s gun deserves.

Oklahoma City needs real accountability for the OKCPD.

But with a Republican mayor who previously called a curfew on citizens protesting the death of George Floyd, Oklahoma City should not expect brave, progressive leadership from the top.

Instead, we should look to groups like Black Lives Matter OKC.

Led by Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson and other local community activists, the organization has released multiple lists with concrete demands they believe will produce the systemic change needed to overcome the unwarranted violence from the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Along with these demands, I would like to include some of my own.

1. Press Mayor Holt.

In other words: Drag him.

This is already being initiated by local community activists online and at City Council meetings. In fact, Mayor Holt has been feeling so pressed, he turned to the press.

Or Facebook that is.

There, in his cozy, conservative bubble, he let every citizen across Oklahoma City know just how much this isn’t his responsibility.

Here is his Facebook response to the murder of Bennie Edwards:

Officer-involved shootings — especially those that end in death — are inherently tragic events that leave only sadness in their wake. The loss of life is felt deeply by the family and friends of the deceased. Fear is left behind in communities that disproportionately interact with law enforcement. Our officers are left with scars they never wished to have. We are all left with questions that may never be answered.

Oklahoma City has recently experienced at least two officer-involved shootings ending in death that have left us all wondering if there are ways to avoid these tragedies.

First of all, I extend my deepest condolences to the families of Stavian Rodriguez and Bennie Edwards. Their lives had value and potential, and their passing grieves me personally. Those who feel the greatest pain are in my prayers.

I have been thinking a lot in recent days about the community’s response to these events. Before I communicate some of those thoughts to you, it is necessary to address a foundational issue, which is what role the mayor of Oklahoma City plays. This is especially necessary because Oklahoma City has a system of government that is foreign to many people. Our form of government has inescapable qualities that mean my role is prospective, not retrospective, and that it is collaborative, not unilateral.

Our city’s governing document prohibits the mayor and the eight councilmembers from specifically directing city employees or being involved in any aspect of a personnel decision. Those authorities lie with the City Manager, who is collectively hired by the nine elected officials. Once the City Manager is hired, that person’s decisions regarding personnel cannot be questioned or reviewed by the elected officials. Any of the nine elected officials who violate this provision of the Oklahoma City charter face a stiff penalty — criminal prosecution and removal from office. I recognize this can seem counterintuitive, but it is the law under which I must operate. As such, if you have an opinion about a pending personnel matter, you must direct that to the City Manager (citymanager@okc.gov).

When it comes to prosecutorial decisions, that process occurs at a totally different level of government. The district attorney is a state-level official elected by a different constituency whose decisions are independent from the city government in every way.

So, though the mayor has no role in addressing the past, I and the eight elected Councilmembers have a role to play in charting our future. It is something we must do collaboratively. Another aspect of our form of government is that the mayor does not have any unilateral policymaking power. Policies are made collectively by the Council. Anyone who has ever had a question in front of the City knows the math — nothing happens without five votes.

The issues that face the nine of us as we move forward operate on multiple levels. The most salient is police procedure, specifically policies that relate to use of force. The nine of us are obviously not experts on these issues. We’re just residents with other day jobs who essentially volunteered to provide oversight of the community’s affairs, and so we rely greatly on the expertise and thoughtful analysis of others. That’s why when concerns about police use of force came to a head this summer, I created the Law Enforcement Policy Task Force so that the Council could consider the recommendations of a very inclusive and broad-based group of residents. That task force also includes four members of the Council. Here is a link to the task force members: https://www.okc.gov/Home/Components/News/News/3483/5296

If the task force did not exist, we would be creating it right now, but it does exist and its work is underway. They had their most recent meeting earlier this week. They are currently in the process of seeking national-level advisors to provide analysis and proven best practices. The work of this task force is timely, it is important, and it will be informed by studying officer-involved shootings, including the ones we have experienced in recent weeks. If you have thoughts about specific law enforcement policies in our community, it is my hope that the membership of the task force is broad enough that you know someone on it and can share your views with them. If not, send your thoughts to me at mayor@okc.gov and we will pass them along.

Additionally, thanks to a resolution authored by Councilman James Cooper and adopted unanimously by the Council, the City Manager created a working group this year focused on ways we can invest in community policing. Those kinds of investments could have been difference-making this week. The efforts of that working group are underway and continue. They will ultimately present their findings to the Council.

As we consider the path forward, I also ask every member of this community to expand our thinking to consider a larger menu of solutions. All levels of government and the non-profit sector must continue and enhance investments in our youth, mental health services, and services for those experiencing homelessness. MAPS 4 makes important commitments to all those things, but that is only a start.

We all have a role to play in this journey of community self-improvement, the answers aren’t simple, and progress is always slower than we want, but there is a path forward. We can and must walk it together.”

I know what you’re thinking, “Hold up! Did our Mayor just use a nine-hundred-word-long Facebook post to refer us to his manager?”

Yes. Yes, he did. Now, I want to dissect a few parts of Mayor Holt’s Facebook press release before I state my second demand:


“Oklahoma City has recently experienced at least two officer-involved shootings ending in death that have left us all wondering if there are ways to avoid these tragedies.”

PB: No one is “wondering” anymore, Mayor Holt. We are all firmly aware of what needs to be done to “avoid these tragedies.” Defund the police, then reinvest the funding into programs that actively serve to uplift the Oklahoma City community in a productive and sensible manner.

As police officers, Master Sgt. Keith Duroy and Sgt. Clifford Holman should not be responding to the call regarding Bennie in the first place. But, since we aren’t fully invested in replenishing our community’s collective mental health, the call on Bennie was their duty to respond.

But was it?

According to Tulsa Public Radio, neither officer had the proper crisis-intervention training to be responding to a citizen experiencing a mental health episode.

(That’s because the training is voluntary and only 14% of Oklahoma City police officers have taken it.)

Mayor Holt, do you believe police officers should be responding to so many calls regarding mental-health episodes? Do you think the training mentioned above should be required for all OKCPD police officers? If so, please say it out loud. It is not illegal for you to say what you believe. It only becomes a problem when you give instruction to City Manager Freeman.

Along with more progressive leadership from Oklahoma City’s Mayor, we need fewer lethal guns in the hands of mentally unstable people. That goes for both citizens and officers alike.

Mayor Holt, put on your lobbying shoes and go talk to your old buddies in the Oklahoma Congress about putting a ban on gun shows, overturning open-carry, and repealing this asinine law banning red-flag laws in Oklahoma City and the rest of the state.

These are just a few suggestions that you’ll probably ignore. But as we hopefully wait for the contrary, Oklahoma City residents must continue on, with or without your help.


“First of all, I extend my deepest condolences to the families of Stavian Rodriguez and Bennie Edwards. Their lives had value and potential, and their passing grieves me personally. Those who feel the greatest pain are in my prayers.”

PB: Tots and prayers. Tots and prayers.

This was the perfect opportunity for Mayor Holt to take his stance and go on the record saying he believes the deaths of Stavian Rodriguez and Bennie Edwards were wrongly inflicted by OKCPD police officers. That’s what the Mayor of Columbus recently did in response to the murder of Andre Hill.

But instead, the Mayor of this capital city gave us his long-winded “thoughts and prayers” garbage social media post just like every other conservative politician does when a tragedy occurs in America.

To Mayor Holt and other elected officials possibly reading this article,

From a lifelong Christian, I’d like to sincerely inform you that none of us care about your thoughts and prayers anymore.

Your prayers are useless without your actions.


“As such, if you have an opinion about a pending personnel matter, you must direct that to the City Manager (citymanager@okc.gov).”

PB: I don’t actually have anything to say here. This line just made me lol.

However, Mayor Holt is correct. All of us could benefit greatly from engaging directly with City Manager Craig Freeman. Which, brings me to my second demand.

2. Press City Manager Craig Freeman.

“People are watching and we know where you live.”

This is a quote from a citizen activist who pressed both City Manager Freeman and Mayor Holt at this last week’s Oklahoma City Council meeting.

This is the energy that will need to be sustained at every City Council meeting until our demands are met, and you can bet I will be masked up for January 5th’s council meeting with some of my own thoughts.

(But probably not any prayers.)

Mayor Holt is smart to direct our anger towards Craig Freeman, because “directing city employees or being involved in any aspect of a personnel decision,” is his job. But what Mayor Holt didn’t say is why this is important.

There is a small group of Oklahoma City personnel we need either to respectfully resign from their current positions, or be set free by Freeman. Significant progress will not be made without these steps. And those steps briskly stride into my third, and arguably most important, demand(s).

3. Seek the resignation of the sitting members of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board.

If they don’t resign, demand City Manager Freeman to terminate them.

Below you will see a list of folks who need to immediately leave their positions. The men can not objectively serve in their current roles as designed, thus leaving the Board entangled in corruption. If the sitting board-members refuse to resign, City Manager Freeman must terminate them.

Here’s who has to go:

I. Mannix Barnes of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board
II. Robert Everman of the OKCPD Advisory Board
III. Douglas White of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board
IV. Jacob Hill of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board

However, before we get started, let me introduce you to the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board and explain why the four people listed above need to respectfully resign from their current roles.

History of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board

The OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board is an organization founded in 2005 in response to two White Oklahoma City police officers being caught on camera senselessly beating a Black man named Donald Pete during an arrest in 2002. How did Oklahoma City choose to respond to this dreadful event?

By creating an advisory board three years later with zero accountability. According to NonDoc:

“The board meets approximately every two months for about two and a half hours to review citizen complaints, which have been investigated by the OKCPD itself.”

Yes, you read that correctly.

For a citizen to file a complaint on the Oklahoma City Police Department to the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board, they first must have the complaint reviewed by the very institution the complaint may be about.

Imagine if your boss sexually assaulted you, but before you filed your complaint with HR, you had to have the slob review your claim?

You probably don’t imagine that because it’s gross and makes zero sense, but this appears to be the “democratic process” in Oklahoma City. So, what happens if a complaint manages to get approval from the OKCPD and makes its way in front of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board?

Well, every two months the Board meets privately where they convene to make recommendations to the City Manager. These board meetings aren’t just private, they’re private, private. According to NonDoc, the meetings are, “not subject to open records regulations because they deal with personnel actions.”

If all of this sounds bonkers, it’s because it is.

But that isn’t the end of this long-winding-W-T-F-road. There are also the sitting members of the Board that make this whole “citizens advisory board” title so laughable.

Before joining the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board, each candidate is first vetted by the Oklahoma City Police Department. If the new candidate for the board passes a police background check, then the current members of the Board vote on whether the candidate will be selected.

This explains the lousy lot we have sitting on the board now.

Mannix Barnes, Robert Everman, Douglas White, and Jacob Hill were all hand-picked by the OKCPD to hold their positions. And they will never be relinquished of their duties because they are there by design.

Mannix Barnes, You Must Resign.

Let’s start with Mannix Barnes. According to Oklahoma City’s government website, he has served on the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board “since its inception.” For 15 years he’s sat on this Board, but what has changed? Is OKC safer? Does our community have better relationships with the OKCPD?

Both answers are a resounding, “No.”

Since Barnes’ tenure began, OKCPD has become more dangerous and their relationship with the community has fully-eroded due to the lack of accountability from folks like board-member Barnes.

Honestly, Barnes is just bad because he’s been there so long and because he’s General Manager of Lucky Star Casinos and Travel Centers. (We’ll get to that.) The next three names are arguably worse. Like the Chairman of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board: Douglas White.

Douglas White, You Must Resign.

White is oozing with a conflict of interest. What does the Chairman do in his personal life? Works for the police of course. Or kind of. He “co-found the Emergency Responders Assistance Program which is an Oklahoma based non-profit serving Oklahoma first responders.”

First-responders can mean a lot of things, but just in case you didn’t make the connection, Douglas White, the chairman of a board that is supposed to hold police accountable for their malfeasance, is the co-founder of an organization that provides mental health counseling to police and other first-responders after they’ve had traumatic experiences in the field.

Let’s put that into context:

Imagine being wrongly shot by a police officer, then, while seeking retribution from a “neutral” board, the Chairman of the board investigating your incident is also working for an organization that covers the same officer’s therapy sessions for shooting you.

Yeah. Oklahoma City is crazy, crazy.

(FULL DISCLAIMER: There is no direct evidence of the above example ever occurring in Oklahoma City. I’ll leave that to the paid journalists to dive through, but under the current OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board setup, it is entirely feasible.)

Jacob Hill, You Must Resign.

Then there is Jacob Hill. “He is a member of the Police and Community Trust (PACT) and serves on various committees within,” Oklahoma City. Along with this, Hill is “a certified Council for Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) instructor.”

In other words, he trains cops how to be cops.

Also noted in his bio, Hill works as a Disability Specialist and “is passionate about being a voice for people living with disabilities.” To which I ask Hill, what about people with disabilities dying by the hands of the OKCPD police? Does Bennie Edwards not deserve your voice? Your advocacy? Your passion?

To summarize, the Chairman of the Board counsels distressed police officers, Mannix sits on his hands for almost two decades, and Hill probably thinks OKCPD’s law enforcement training is fine how it is because he teaches its curriculum and sees nothing wrong with it.

I know. It’s a lot to digest.

Robert Everman, You Must Resign.

Finally, there’s the CFO of Lucky Star Casino and Travel Centers, Robert Everman. He is on the board because of those three fancy letters in front of “of Lucky Star Casino and Travel Centers.” Also, isn’t it odd that we have two high-ranking members of a casino business sitting on one city board meant to reflect the average OKC resident?

The Board claims to be “representative of the various ethnic and cultural groups, within our community.” But what about the different economic classes? Is the average middle-class citizen fairly represented on this board? And what about our impoverished communities and people like Bennie? Are they fairly represented by the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board as well?

I think Everman is a rather peculiar character to have on the Board. So much so, I think he should respectfully resign with his colleague Mannix Barnes and the rest of the aforementioned board members.

Along with these folks resigning, the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board needs a few monumental tweaks. We can first start by changing the “ethnic and cultural groups” wording mentioned above. Methinks it’s being exploited.

Also, leaders from Black Lives Matter OKC have suggested giving the Advisory Board subpoena power and making sure the Board’s meetings are conducted in public so that the broader OKC community can observe the meetings and come to conclusions themselves.

For Bennie Edwards

Finally, I want to turn back the lense on Mayor Holt. In his Facebook press release, the Mayor touted his new City Law Enforcement Task Force:

I created the Law Enforcement Policy Task Force so that the Council could consider the recommendations of a very inclusive and broad-based group of residents

However, it’s already a fishy mess and leaders from the Black Lives Matter movement expressed to me that they don’t believe the new task force is a genuine attempt to “consider the recommendations” of average citizens. From their standpoint and mine, the new task force is just a muddy tactic meant to slow down the true deliverance of justice and accountability.

But it also begs the question, why create this task force at all? Is the intention to create such a group not the same purpose as the founding of the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board? Do we really need two organizations both failing to deliver systemic changes?

No, we don’t.

But trust me, Mayor Holt will not relent and let this new task force die. He’s done the math. The OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board has been left unscathed and unchallenged for fifteen years. Surely, he can drag out his new task force for two more years so he can safely reach the end of his mayoral term and make his rumored run for Governor of Oklahoma?

However, the only way that happens is if we stand by idly and let Mayor Holt’s friendly “charm” distract us from his reluctance to be a true leader for the Oklahoma City community.

My final demand: Do not relent.

We can bring justice to Bennie Edwards and his loving family but don’t expect any help from the men in charge. It will take a coalition of citizens from all classes and backgrounds uniting to press the comfortable folks like Mayor Holt, City Manager Freeman, Mannix Barnes, Robert Everman, Douglas White, and Jacob Hill.

But I believe we can do it.