Police have retracted earlier accounts that a vehicle was reversing toward officers in an “aggressive manner” when one of the officers opened fire, striking and killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in a Dallas-area suburb Saturday night.
In a news conference Monday, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said that he initially “misspoke” and that the vehicle had begun to drive away at the time the officer opened fire. He questioned whether the shooting was necessary.
“I unintentionally (was) incorrect when I said the vehicle was backing down the road … in fact I can tell you that I do have questions in relation to my observation (of) the video,” Haber said. “After reviewing the video, I don’t believe that (the shooting) met our core values.”
Haber, who declined to release the video footage of the shooting as well as the name of the officer involved, said that evidence will be presented to a grand jury.
Jordan is the youngest of the more than 330 people who have been shot and killed by police in 2017, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings. About 25 percent of those fatally shot by police this year have been black, and about 7 percent of those killed have been unarmed at the time they were shot. At least 10 people shot and killed by police this year were under 18.
Earlier, the police chief said that officers were dispatched to the 12300 block of Baron Drive in Balch Springs after receiving a 911 call at 11 p.m. reporting several drunken teens walking around the neighborhood.
When officers arrived, they heard gunshots, Haber said. In what police described as an “unknown altercation,” a vehicle then began “backing down the street toward the officers in an aggressive manner.” By Monday afternoon, police had retracted that statement.
One officer shot at the vehicle, Haber said, striking Jordan, who was in the front passenger seat.
Jordan was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office said he was killed by a rifle wound to the head.
The officer was placed on administrative duty. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office are conducting their own investigations into the shooting, and the Balch Springs Police Department will oversee an internal investigation.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for Edwards’s family, said at a news conference Monday that the family is calling on the police department to release the name of the officer as well as audio and video footage of the incident.
“We are declaring war on bad policing. This has happened far too often,” he said. “We are tired of making the same rhetorical demands, of having the same hashtags; our community is fed up with the same tired excuses, once again offered by Balch Springs Police Department yesterday, that this was somehow the fault of the victims — teenage kids with no criminal records, with no motive to attempt to hurt anyone, with no evidence that they ever attempted to hurt anyone.”
“Another family ripped apart by police brutality,” he wrote Sunday on Twitter. “There was absolutely no justification for this murder. We demand justice!”
In a phone interview with The Post on Sunday night, Merritt said that Jordan, his 16-year-old brother and three other teenage boys were at a party on Baron Drive when they learned that police were on the way.
They went to the car parked outside, saw flashlights and heard gunshots, Merritt said. As they climbed into the car, the teens apparently heard somebody yell profanities. Then they were being fired upon.
They fled for about a block, Merritt said, before they noticed that there was smoke coming from Jordan’s head. The driver of the car, the boy’s older brother, stopped the car, and they flagged down an approaching police cruiser for help.
Several of the teens played on the football team together. Jordan was going through spring training for next year’s season.
“They’re never going to be the same,” Merritt said. “These kids are never going to be the same.”
Merritt said that three bullets were fired into the car. They came through the driver’s side window, he said.
Jordan and the four teens with him had not been drinking, according to Merritt. They were not cited for underage drinking and have not been charged with any crimes, he said.
Requests by The Post for comment were not immediately answered by Balch Springs police, including what policies the department has on shooting into moving vehicles.
Many major law enforcement agencies, federal officials and policing experts advise against shooting into moving vehicles, according to a 2015 investigation by the Guardian. The risk of harming an innocent party is too great, the Guardian reported, and the shots don’t often stop the vehicle.
In 2016, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — the largest sheriff’s department in the United States — wrote a new policy essentially banning officers from firing into a moving vehicle unless they feel threatened by something else, such as a weapon.
“Firearms shall not be discharged at a stationary or moving vehicle, the occupants of a vehicle, or the tires of a vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is imminently threatening the Department member or another person present with deadly force by means other than the moving vehicle.”
It has been nearly a year since a wave of officer-involved shootings was followed by ambush-style attacks on law enforcement officers around the country, most notably in Dallas, where last July five officers were fatally shot and nine other officers injured by a sniper during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.
Merritt said the tightknit Edwards family is “devastated.”
“They seem to be walking around in shock,” he said. “I imagine they’re going to sleep tonight hoping to wake up to this all being a dream.”
This post has been updated.