Family of Teen Killed by Balch Springs Officer Calls for End to Threats Against Police

The Balch Springs police department has fired the police officer who shot and killed a black 15-year-old boy who was riding in a vehicle while leaving a house party.

The suburban Dallas police department said Tuesday that officer Roy Oliver was terminated for violating department policies during the Saturday night shooting that killed Jordan Edwards.

Police originally said the vehicle was reversing "in an aggressive manner" toward officers, but later said that video taken at the scene proved the vehicle was actually driving away.

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Edwards' family, said the officer shot him with a rifle through the front passenger side window.

Merritt released a statement from the family in response to news of the officer's termination. They said they are "grateful" that the police chief "has made commendable strides toward justice." But, they said there "remains a long road ahead."

"...he was not the only officer responsible for dreadful behavior that evening. After Jordan’s two brothers, Vidal and Kevon, along with their two friends, were forced to experience this tragedy up close as occupants of the car, they were immediately treated as common criminals by other officers; manhandled, intimidated and arrested, while their brother lay dying in the front seat."

The family said they "anxiously await" a murder charge for the terminated officer and that they would like to see other officers involved "properly reprimanded."

Thousands of people have posted about the case online, some comparing it to other police shootings of black men.

Edwards' family had issued a statement earlier Tuesday saying they don't condone violence or threats against law enforcement, a day after the local police chief acknowledged video of the incident contradicted the department's original account.

Merritt released the statement on his Twitter account, also asking people to follow the family's wishes to not protest, march or threaten officers.

Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber told reporters a day earlier that police video showed the vehicle Edwards was riding in was driving away, not reversing toward officers, as the department had previously asserted. He said the department had received death threats and called for patience as investigations into the shooting continue.

The statement also asked for space for the family to grieve, noting Edwards' two brothers witnessed the shooting Saturday night. Edwards, a high school freshman, had gotten into a vehicle with four other teenagers to leave a house party as they heard police were arriving to investigate an underage drinking complaint, Merritt said Monday.

According to Merritt, the teens headed to leave after hearing gunshots and finding out that police were arriving. As their vehicle moved away, the officer fired his rifle into the front passenger's side window, striking Edwards, Merritt said. The Dallas County medical examiner said Edwards died of a rifle wound and ruled his death a homicide.

"Not only have Jordan's brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder," the statement reads. "Their young lives will forever be altered. No one, let alone young children, should witness such horrific, unexplainable, violence."

Police first said the vehicle backed up toward officers at the scene "in an aggressive manner." But Haber said Monday that police video shows the vehicle was instead "moving forward as the officers approached."

Merritt said Jordan's shooting brings to mind the high-profile deaths of other black people after police encounters that have sparked outrage and protest in recent years, but that this case stood out for its "sheer recklessness."

The chief has not released the video or described it in detail other than to acknowledge he initially erred in describing the encounter, but said he was troubled by what he saw.

The Dallas County district attorney's and sheriff's offices are investigating the shooting. A spokeswoman for the sheriff said its probe was in the "preliminary stages."

The original police statement about the shooting said officers responded to a report of "several underage kids drunk walking around." It doesn't specify whether the passengers of the vehicle in which Jordan was riding were among them. They didn't have alcohol or weapons, Merritt said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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