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Family sues Texas police officer in shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards

Odell Edwards wipes away tears with his arm around his wife, Charmaine Edwards, as they listen to their attorney, Lee Merritt, talking about the death of their son, Jordan Edwards. (Guy Reynolds/Dallas Morning News/AP)

The father of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards is suing the former Dallas-area police officer accused of shooting and killing his teenage son in a vehicle that was leaving a house party.

The 22-page lawsuit, which was filed late last week in U.S. District Court in Dallas, argues that former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver used excessive and deadly force and that the police department did not adequately train the officer, who had “a reputation for having a short fuse.” The lawsuit comes after investigators said Oliver fired his rifle into a vehicle full of teenagers on April 29, fatally shooting Jordan.

Jordan’s father, Odell Edwards, claims that Balch Springs city leaders, including Mayor Carrie Marshall and Police Chief Jonathan Haber, “failed to properly train, supervise, screen, discipline, transfer, counsel or otherwise control officers who are known, or who should have been known, to engage in the use of excessive force and/or deadly force, including those officers repeatedly accused of such acts.”

The mayor’s office, police department and an attorney for Oliver did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Texas police officer who killed black teen could spend rest of his life in prison

Jordan is the youngest of the 345 people who have been fatally shot 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 were unarmed at the time they were shot. At least 10 people fatally shot by police this year were under 18.

Investigators said Oliver and other officers responded to a call about suspected teenage drinking at a party in Balch Springs on April 29. Jordan, his brothers and some friends had gotten into a car and started to drive away when Oliver shot at the vehicle. A bullet went through a passenger-side window and struck Jordan in the head, according to the lawsuit.

The driver, Jordan’s stepbrother, “heard someone shout ‘Stop the f—— car,’ ” according to the court documents, but before he could react, “Oliver began shooting into the vehicle with a rifle as they attempted to drive away.”

“Fearing for their lives,” the lawsuit states, the teenagers continued to drive down the street, then pulled over to call Jordan’s father to tell him that the 15-year-old boy had been shot by police.

Several patrol cars surrounded the car, and authorities first ordered the driver and then others to exit the vehicle, according to the documents. The lawsuit claims that the driver was “grabbed, handcuffed and placed into the back of a patrol vehicle despite not committing a crime.”

“The officers then shouted similar commands to the other occupants of the vehicle although they had not committed a penal offense,” according to court documents.

Jordan was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Dallas County medical examiners later ruled Jordan’s death a homicide and said that he was killed by a rifle wound to the head. His funeral was Saturday.

“There was no reason that any person in America — not just a black person — should ever have to bury their 15-year-old child who was doing everything right in life,” Jasmine Crockett, an attorney for the family, told the Associated Press.

A suburban Dallas police officer was charged with murder after killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards on April 29. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

Oliver, who had been with the Balch Springs Police Department since 2011, was fired and later charged with murder in the 15-year-old’s death.

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that evidence suggests Oliver “intended to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of an individual.”

Attorneys for the Edwards family said in a statement that “although this does not take away the excruciating pain caused by the loss of a son, brother, and friend,” the announcement brought the family some relief.

Oliver turned himself in Friday and was then released on $300,000 bail. As The Washington Post reported, if Oliver is convicted of Jordan’s murder, he could face life in prison.

A Washington Post database on fatal police shootings

The family’s lawsuit argues that the Balch Springs Police Department should have known that Oliver “exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public.”

The Associated Press reported that the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office in 2013 filed a complaint about Oliver’s conduct in court while serving as a witness in a drunken-driving case, according to personnel records. Oliver’s language was reportedly so inappropriate that the assistant district attorney told an intern to leave the room, according to the news agency.

“In an email from one of the prosecutors he states you were a ‘scary person to have in our workroom,’ ” Ed Morris, who was the police chief at the time, wrote in his findings, according to the news agency.

Oliver was suspended for 16 hours and ordered to take classes in anger management and courtroom demeanor and testimony, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit states that Balch Springs officials knew of Oliver’s “erratic behavior” and “did nothing to protect Edwards and others from the harm they suffered.”

The family is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

This story has been updated.

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Police have killed nearly 200 people who were in moving vehicles since 2015, including 15-year-old Jordan Edwards