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Coroner: Driver died of 'gunshot wound'

ROCK FALLS – Preliminary autopsy results show that the driver killed by police Friday night died of a single gunshot wound, Whiteside County Coroner Joe McDonald said in a news release Monday afternoon.

The release does not say how many times Nathaniel T. “Nate” Edwards, 43, of Sterling, was shot, only that he was pronounced dead of a “gunshot wound” about an hour after the shooting.

Lab and toxicology tests are pending; typically, they take from 2 to 8 weeks to process.

According to investigators, Rock Falls Police attempted to pull Edwards over that night for an as-yet unspecified reason. He did not immediately comply, was pursued, and eventually pulled into the driveway at 1304 Franklin St., where family members said he was attending a party.

He did not respond to officers’ verbal commands, and instead put the car in reverse and accelerated toward the Rock Falls officer, who then shot him, investigators said.

Rock Falls police and Whiteside County sheriff’s deputies performed CPR and used an automated external defibrillator until emergency medical personnel arrived; but Edwards was pronounced dead in the CGH Medical Center Emergency Department at 8:48 p.m., the release said.

The officer has not been identified, and investigators have declined to say how many shots were fired, how many hit Edwards, or where.

Edwards has a long history in Lee and Whiteside counties of driving on a revoked license, and in fact was doing so that evening. A family member also told Sauk Valley Media that the plates on his white Cadillac did not belong to the car.

The officer was interviewed and Edwards’ car was searched and processed Monday, said Lt. Chris Endress of the ISP Integrity Task Force, who is overseeing the investigation. He declined to release any further information on what was found.

Interviews were continuing Monday and today, Endress said.

Dash-cam footage from one Rock Falls police and two Whiteside County sheriff squad cars was collected Friday night.

Edwards has an extensive criminal history in Whiteside County dating back 20 years. His most recent charge of driving on a revoked license, in this case a felony that carries 1 to 3 years in prison, was levied on Oct. 30.

​Edwards, who is black, was the sole occupant of the white Cadillac. The officer, a 10-year veteran of the force, is white; he was training a new hire that night, Endress said.

As is protocol, the officer is on paid administrative leave while the investigation progresses.

Melanie Ruff, Edwards’ niece, said Edwards was at a party at the Franklin Street home, went to the store and was returning when police tried to pull him over.

Ruff told Sauk Valley Media Saturday that has no doubt that her uncle had been drinking and probably had marijuana in the car, which also had plates that did not belong to him, but she believes her uncle did not have a weapon and did not pose a threat serious enough to warrant the use of deadly force.

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