Details are still emerging on the latest police shooting of an unarmed black teen. On Saturday, a police officer in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs shot 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, a high school freshman, through the passenger side window of a car. The officers were responding to calls of underage drinking at a house party.
As they arrived, the cops said they heard gunshots and came upon a car containing Edwards and his friends. As the car pulled away, an officer fired several rounds into the vehicle and hit Edwards, who was sitting in the passenger seat. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Police haven't released the name of the officer who is now on administrative leave.
Nomaan Merchant, a reporter for The Associated Press in Texas, said the police officers initially said they felt threatened by a car coming towards them in reverse.
“Their original statement talked about the vehicle backing down the street towards the officers in an aggressive manner,” says Merchant. “The attorneys for the family of Jordan Edwards questioned that narrative, and shortly after they held a press conference on Monday afternoon, Balch Springs’ police chief came out and said that his review of the video contradicted what [the officers] had said the day before, and that actually, the vehicle was driving away when the officer opened fire.”
Lee Merritt, the attorney representing the family of Jordan Edwards, told Merchant that the officer’s gunfire entered through the front passenger window.
“We don’t know from the police department why the officer may have opened fire, or really what the video showed, other than the vehicle driving away and not reversing towards the officers as the police originally claimed,” says Merchant. “The police department so far has refused to turn over the video or even identify the officer involved, or speak to his potential motive or what he might have been thinking when he opened fire with the rifle.”
Merritt says that Edwards — a high-achieving student and a popular athlete — and the other four teenagers in the vehicle, were not carrying weapons. And, they did not have alcohol with them, according to Merchant.
“Keep in mind that the original complaint was related to underage drinking,” adds Merchant. “It was, according to witnesses, a pretty chaotic scene with lots of people on the street, and Jordan and these four people were trying to leave the party as it was getting a little bit dangerous, and particularly as police were arriving.”
While police-community relations are strained, here, and in many parts of the United States, Merchant says that the Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber seems to be sympathetic in this tense situation.
“The police chief, on Monday, said repeatedly how sad he felt and how he couldn’t understand, just from a personal level, the pain that Jordan’s family is going through, [and] that he had met with the family multiple times,” Merchant says. “Lee Merritt, in speaking to me, credited the police chief for trying to make a good faith effort now to correct the record from the mistaken statement from Sunday. But he also said in this case, there’s really only one conclusion that the family can see happening, at least with the police department, and that’s the firing and charging of this officer who was involved.”
Many community residents are calling for action, in this case, Merchant says, adding that some locals are planning to carry out protests through the week as the local district attorney’s office and the sheriff's office investigate Edwards’ death.
“There will be a lot of pressure, it’s already building,” he says.