A 15-year-old Texas boy was fatally shot by police Saturday night while he was the passenger in a car, authorities say.
Jordan Edwards was in the front passenger’s seat and was shot through the side window by a Balch Springs Police officer, an attorney for his family told the Dallas Morning News.
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said Monday the officer’s actions, “did not meet our core values,” the newspaper reports.
On Tuesday, Officer Roy Oliver, who has been with the department since 2001, was fired for violating departmental policies. A criminal investigation is still ongoing.
Jordan was in the car with four other teens, including his brothers, Merritt said.
Balch Springs Police said they were called to a report of “several underage kids walking around” in the 12300 block of Baron Drive about 11 p.m. Saturday, according to a press release. Police said the responding officers heard gunfire while looking for the teens and opened fire on the car Edwards was in after “an unknown altercation.”
The family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, told the newspaper Jordan and his friends were not the teens police were looking for and hadn’t been drinking. He said the other teens in the car are not facing charges.
“An unarmed 15 y/o child died after being shot in the head by Balch Springs PD. A cop shot multiple rounds into a car filled with teens,” Merritt said on Facebook.
“Another family ripped apart by police brutality. There was absolutely no justification for this murder,” Merritt said on Twitter. “We demand justice!”
Balch Springs, a city of about 23,000 people, is located in north Texas, about 20 minutes from Dallas.
A memorial fund has been set up to help the Edwards family.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Originally Said the Vehicle Edwards Was in Backed Toward Officers ‘in an Aggressive Manner,’ but Now Say It Was Driving Away
Officers responded to the 12300 block of Baron Drive about 11 p.m. Saturday after receiving a 911 call reporting “several underage kids drunk walking around,” Balch Springs Police said in a press release posted Sunday.
Neighbors told KTVT-TV reporter Gabriel Roxas that there had been a large house party attended by “unsupervised teens” in the area near where officers responded.
The officers “arrived to investigate,” and “during the investigation, officers heard gunfire,” police said in the press release.
“There was an unknown altercation with a vehicle backing down the street towards the officers in an aggressive manner,” police said in a Sunday press release. “An officer shot at the vehicle striking the front seat passenger.”
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber contradicted his and the department’s original account of the incident on Monday, after reviewing body camera footage, the Dallas Morning News reports. Haber said the teen driving the car first backed down the street, but then started driving forward, away from the officers, when the shooting occurred.
Haber said he “unintentionally” gave incorrect information.
“In fact, according to the video that I viewed, the vehicle was moving forward as the vehicle approached,” Haber said.
The victim was identified by his family as 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
“There were no weapons involved; there was no aggressive behavior; these were not suspects,” attorney Lee Merritt told the New York Times. “The lone motive they had for the murder was that the vehicle was being used as a weapon, and now that is no longer there.”
“They have a dead child, they have the identity of the shooter, and they have no explanation for the shooting. They have more than sufficient probable cause to make an arrest,” Merritt told the Times.
Jordan was shot in the head by an officer using a rifle, the Dallas Medical Examiner’s Office said. His death has been ruled a homicide.
Through their attorney, the family had disputed the police version of what happened, saying the car was not aggressively moving toward the officers.
Police said Edwards was taken to a local hospital “where he later died from his injuries.”
One of Jordan’s brothers, who is 16, was handcuffed after the shooting and held overnight, Merritt said.
“After seeing his brother get shot, Jordan’s older brother was handcuffed and taken by police for no particular reason,” Merritt told NBC News. He was later released without charges and is not a suspect.
The teens were not drinking, Merritt said. He added that the boys’ father was also held at a Dallas County building after he arrived at the police station to ask about his sons. “Balch Springs PD called the Dallas County Sheriff’s office and asked if they could restrain Jordan’s father because of his ‘hostile” behavior,’ he said.
2. Edwards’ Family’s Attorney Says the Teens Were Leaving a Party & Trying to Get Away From ‘Danger’
Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Jordan Edwards’ family, has said the police version of events is not what actually happened.
He told the Dallas Morning News the claim the car was driving aggressively at officers “will not hold water when the facts come out.”
He said Jordan was leaving a party with his friends and were trying to escape from gunfire when the shooting occurred.
“They were simply leaving a party where they believed danger was,” Merritt told KTVT-TV.”So I can’t wrap my mind around why an officer decided to shoot into the car.”
Merritt, of Dallas-based Merritt Law Firm, is also representing a Texas mother, Jacqueline Craig, and her family, who claim their civil rights were violated by a Fort Worth police officer in January.
“We want this to stop happening. Every other modern nation in the world has figured out how to police their citizen without killing so many of them,” Merritt said on Facebook. “Specifically, the killing of UNARMED, BLACK, YOUTH and the common “justifications” offered are unacceptable and infuriating.
“We demand justice for #JordanEdwards We demand a change,” Merritt said.
3. He Was a Freshman at Mesquite High School Who Loved to Play Football & Was a ‘Straight A Student,’ His Family & Friends Say
Jordan Edwards was a freshman at Mesquite High School and loved to play football, his family and friends said. Lee Merritt released a statement on behalf of the family on Tuesday:
We would like to thank everyone for their kind words, thoughts, prayers and condolences as we mourn the tremendous loss our family and community has suffered. We know that so many of your share in our loss. At this time we ask that you please be respectful of our family and allow us the opportunity and space to grieve. This entire ordeal has been inescapable.
Jordan was a loving child, with a humble and sharing spirit. The bond that he shared with his family, particularly his siblings, was indescribable. Not only have Jordan’s brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder. Their young lives will forever be altered. No one, let alone young children, should witness such horrific, explainable, violence. While our family attempts to cope with our loss, we ask that at this time the community please refrain from protests and marches in Jordan’s and our family’s name as we prepare for his funeral. We do not support nor do we condone any violence or threats made against the Balch Springs Police Department or any other law enforcement agencies. What we desire only second to having our beloved Jordan back, is JUSTICE FOR JORDAN.
Jeff Fleener, the head football coach at the school, told the Dallas Morning News he is “crushed and heartbroken” by Jordan’s death, saying the teen was never in trouble and had a GPA over 3.5. Fleener said Jordan played on the freshman football team and he had a “smile that could light up a room.”
“The best thing in the world or the worst thing in the world would happen, and he’d smile and everything would be OK,” Fleener told the newspaper. “You create a checklist of everything you would want in a player, a son, a teammate, a friend and Jordan had all that. He was that kid.”
A longtime family friend, Robbin McDonald, told KDFW-TV that Jordan “was a straight A student, I can tell you he was always smiling. I can tell you he was a very, very brilliant and humble and very sweet kid.”
His former football coach, Kim Hickman, told KXAS-TV, “I’m hurt devastated, I mean, I love that kid it hit home, when i heard it, it hit home, it’s sad.”
Jordan’s friend, 13-year-old Chris Cano Jr., told the Dallas Morning News, “it shouldn’t have happened to him.”
Cano’s father, Chris Cano Sr., who knew Jordan from when the boy was 6, told the newspaper, “It could have easily been my son. He said Jordan was “not a thug, and he had great parents.”
The school district issued a statement about Jordan’s death.
“Mesquite ISD’s deepest sympathies and prayers are with the family and friends of this young man who tragically lost his life late Saturday evening,” the school district said. “He was a good student who was very well liked by his teachers, coaches and his fellow students. The entire district — especially the staff and students of Mesquite High School — are mourning this terrible loss.”
The school district said it had counselors on hand to talk to students.
Fleener told the Dallas Morning News he had a hard time talking to adults and an even harder time talking to students about Jordan on Monday.
“I went from sad to sick to my stomach to angry to praying to asking why,” Fleener told the newspaper. “They needed to understand it was OK to have those feelings and that we were going to get through this together.”
4. The City’s Police Chief Met With Edwards’ Family & Offered Condolences to Them
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber held a press conference on Sunday and said he has spoken to Jordan Edwards’ family.
“We express our deep and sincere condolences to the family,” Haber said, according to KDFW-TV. “I have reached out and personally met and spoken with the parents and expressed my condolences.”
“On behalf of the entire Balch Springs Police Department, and the city of Balch Springs we express our deep, sincere condolences to the family,” he said.
“We will continue to reach out to the parents and keep them informed as we move forward from this point,” Haber said.
Lee Merritt told the Dallas Morning News the family wants the officer who shot and killed Jordan to be arrested and charged.
5. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office Is Investigating the Shooting & the Officer Has Been Placed on Paid Leave
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office will be investigating the shooting, Balch Springs Police said. The sheriff’s office has not yet commented about the incident. They have launched a criminal investigation.
The Public Integrity Unit of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s will also be investigating. District Attorney Faith Johnson issued a statement about the shooting on Monday:
The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Unit includes a specialized group of experienced attorneys and investigators. The Civil Rights Team responds to all officer involved shooting in Dallas County to conduct an impartial and independent investigation. As such, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the death of Jordan Edwards. We offer our sincere condolences to Jordan’s family and will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers as we move forward expeditiously, with a commitment to justice and transparency.
Attorney Lee Merritt told the Dallas Morning News he hopes the investigation will be objective since it is being handled by the county sheriff’s office and not internally.
An internal investigation is also being completed. All officers in the department wear body cameras and all vehicles have dashboard cameras, according to KXAS-TV, but it is not clear if there is video showing the shooting. No video has been released.
Merritt has called for the videos to be made public and for the officer’s name to be released.
He said, “The facts will bear out the truth and on behalf of the family we demand transparency with all facts and evidence involved. The family is calling on the community to stand with them, resolute in the demand for justice.”
Merritt said Edwards “was a student athlete who was loved by his family and peers alike. The family is truly devastated by this senseless killing and is calling on a thorough investigation, which should lead to the termination of the officer and criminal charges filed against him for his reckless conduct and disregard for life. Based on witness accounts of the incident, there simply was no justifiable and/or lawful reason for the officer to fire at an occupied vehicle.”