Police Chief: Man Fatally Shot During Traffic Stop Drove Car Toward Officer

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An Illinois man was shot dead by a police officer after authorities say he drove his vehicle toward the patrolman during a traffic stop.

Police say the incident unfolded Friday, January 26, when Nathaniel T. Edwards, 43, was stopped by a Rock Falls Police officer after what has been reported as a “lengthy pursuit.” According to a statement from Police Chief Tammy Nelson, Edwards threw his car in reverse and “accelerated in the path of the officer.”

The policeman then opened fire. Edwards was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

The shooting has resulted in an onslaught of criticism as supporters of Edwards have taken to social media, claiming it was unjustified. Edwards reportedly was not armed and posed no threat to the officer, supporters say.

Nelson quickly commented back, saying she “will not sit silent and allow misinformation to drive a wedge between our police department and our citizens.”

Police say before firing his weapon, the officer approached Edwards on foot and gave him several verbal commands he did not obey.

The Illinois State Police is now reviewing dash-cam footage from one Rock Falls Police and two Whiteside County Sheriff’s cars.

State police investigators are also interviewing witnesses; however, it is not known if anyone other than responding officers saw or heard anything at the scene. Edwards’ niece told reporters the officer “shot up” the car with her uncle in it, and that it is likely Edwards had alcohol and marijuana in the vehicle. It is not being confirmed whether Edwards had a weapon. The number of times he was shot has also not been released.

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Court records show Edwards had an extensive record of traffic offenses and was driving on a revoked license. The license plates on the Cadillac were registered to another car, something police say may have sparked the pursuit. Edwards was charged last fall with driving on a revoked license. He appeared in court January 5 and told a judge he had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana the day he was stopped.

An autopsy was conducted Monday. Results of toxicology tests are expected back in six to eight weeks.

The officer’s name has not been released. He is a 10-year veteran of the Rock Falls Police Department and currently on administrative leave per department policy.