Officer Michael Edington testifies in manslaughter trial

Michael Edington (Norfolk Police Department).
Michael Edington (Norfolk Police Department).

4:30 p.m. Update: The defense has rested its case.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Michael Edington, Jr., the Norfolk police officer on trial for voluntary manslaughter, took the stand Tuesday morning to testify in his own defense. The defense rested its case late Tuesday afternoon.

WAVY’s Erin Kelly reports that Edington testified for one hour before the defense finished questioning him. Following a midday recess, the prosecution began a cross-examination that lasted more than an hour.

Edington is charged in the 2014 shooting death of 35-year-old David Latham, who officers say refused to drop a knife during a 2014 encounter with law enforcement.

Prosecution rests in Norfolk officer’s manslaughter trial

Several officers who have testified in the trial said Edington took the May 2014 loss of fellow Norfolk police officer Brian Jones hard. Edington’s supervisor testified that the officer was able to do his job, despite the loss.

The Norfolk officer testified Tuesday that although he was saddened by the death of Jones, it did not affect his work.

Edington said that when he got the call the night of the encounter with Latham, he learned that there was a report of a person with a weapon threatening his family. He also said he learned information from another 911 call that night that the mother had said her son was mentally disturbed.

Latham’s family has claimed that the 35-year-old had suffered from mental illness for around 20 years and a psychiatrist who treated Latham diagnosed him with a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Edington testified that he said that night, “Why are people always doing this (expletive)?” because he hates domestic violence calls because he believes they are dangerous.

Edginton said he pulled his gun out before he saw the knife, but said he had reason to believe Latham was armed. He said that he gave multiple commands to Latham to put the knife down, and fired after he saw Latham take a step to the side.

“I did not feel like I could wait,” Edington said on the stand Tuesday, when asked why he fired the shots. “He was going to get to me no matter what.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood suggested Edington had to create a step to justify the killing, pointing to instances Edington did not mention it to police. The defendant denied that, and said he told them about it in a walk-through of the scene.

Underwood also said that other witnesses in the case testified that Latham was mumbling before the shooting, not shouting, as Edington claimed.

A witness testified in the trial last week that Edington was wearing a body camera during the 2014 encounter. The witness said the camera was not one that was issued by the Norfolk Police Department, but one that Edington had bought.

Police policy advises against personal body cameras

Edington said that after the shots were fired in the 2014 incident, he turned the body camera on and doesn’t know why it only recorded for a few seconds.

He testified that the reason he did not have it on in the first place was that he hadn’t used it often and it was not a habit for him to use the camera.

Erin Kelly will have more on Edington’s case Wednesday, when attorneys are expected to give closing arguments.