Unarmed Black teen killed by police officer
BALCH SPRINGS (AP) | 5/8/2017, 11:15 a.m.
BALCH SPRINGS (AP) – Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old Mesquite High School student, was shot and killed Saturday night after a Balch Springs police officer fired multiple rounds into a car that he was riding in. In an original statement to the press, authorities stated that the car was being driven in reverse toward the officer in an “aggressive manner.”
Balch Springs police Chief Jonathan Haber said at a news conference Sunday that officers heard gunshots after responding to a call of drunken teenagers in a neighborhood. He further stated that officers grew concerned when the car backed down a street, prompting one unidentified officer to fire.
Lee Merritt, an attorney representing the youth’s family, said the teen killed was a high school freshman. He was shot Saturday night and died at a hospital. Reports indicated that Edwards had a 3.5 GPA and did not display behavioral issues.
He also clarified that the car wasn’t being driven aggressively and that the teens in the car weren’t the ones police had been called about.
One of the young men in the car stated that they became concerned when they heard shooting and was trying to leave the area. They didn’t know that Edwards had been shot until they realized he had he was not talking, according to a broadcasted report.
During a Monday afternoon press conference, Haber confirmed that the youth were driving away from the officers when the police fired through the car window with a rifle and shot the front seat passenger.
Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, Texas Legislative Black Caucus chair, released a statement Tuesday calling the actions of the officer “unacceptably irresponsible.”
“Once again our nation has been gripped with the death of an unarmed African American teenager shot after what seemingly appeared to be an aggressive tactic of a law enforcement official,” Giddings stated. “Jordan is reported to have been an outstanding student and could have contributed to the bright future we hope for our state and nation. Unfortunately, we lost him before he could show us his full potential.”
BSPD informed the media that the office had been fired as of Tuesday. Merritt said the family wants the officer arrested and charged.
“I have spoken with Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson regarding this incident,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas. “Both Sheriff Valdez and Judge Johnson said they have already started to conduct separate but fair, independent and thorough investigations in their own right. It is also imperative that we aggressively pursue these two separate investigations to preserve the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
In the meantime, as the Next Generation Action Network prepared to rally and demand justice for Edwards and his family. Merritt posted a note on behalf of the family asking the community not to protest or march, and moreover not to retaliate against the BSPD or any other law enforcement. But emotions still run deep throughout the community.
“This week we’re reminded that Michael Slager fired five rounds into Walker Scott’s back while he was running away. Howie Lake and Blane Salamoni fired five rounds into Alton Sterling’s chest and back while he was subdued on the ground. And now Roy Oliver has fired a single rifle shot into the head of an innocent 15-year-old boy while he was riding in a car that posed no threat to anyone,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “How many Black men have to die before law enforcement changes its culture and regains the trust of the communities it’s sworn to serve?
“We stand in solidarity with all those who continue to call for a transformation in American policing in the face of yet another avoidable killing. The system must be founded in de-escalation, in minimum force, and in transparency; those values cannot just be tacked on,” said Kali Cohn, staff attorney of the ACLU of Texas. “The public is clamoring for answers. What are the Department’s use of force and pursuit policies? How are officers trained on and held accountable to those policies? Do officers live in and know the communities they serve? There will be no answers that can justify Jordan Edwards’ death, but we must find a solution to prevent this trauma from repeating again and again.”
Robyn H. Jimenez/The Dallas Examiner contributed to this report.