Texas Police Reportedly Shot & Killed An Unarmed Black Teen

by Seth Millstein
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On Saturday night, a Texas police officer killed unarmed black 15-year-old Jordan Edwards by shooting him in the head with a rifle, the Dallas Morning News reported. Although the circumstances surrounding the incident are unclear, the Dallas County medical examiner's office has ruled Edwards' death a homicide. This does not mean charges will be filed, however. The Dallas County Sheriff's Department and the Dallas County District Attorney's Office are conducting a joint criminal investigation into the incident, according to the Washington Post, while the Balch Springs Police Department is carrying out its own internal investigation into what happened. The officer who reportedly killed Edwards has been placed on administrative leave, the department said.

According to S. Lee Merritt, Edwards' family attorney, the high school freshman and several of his friends were at a party that had gotten out of control and decided to leave. Merritt told the Washington Post that Edwards, his 16-year-old brother, and three others saw flashlights and heard gunshots as they were walking to their car. They entered the vehicle, Merritt said, at which point they heard profanities and were fired upon three times. The group reportedly drove away and fled for around a block before realizing that Edwards had been shot in the head. He was taken to a nearby hospital but pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

"We are tired of making the same rhetorical demands, of making the same hashtags," Merritt said in a press conference. "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 attempted to hurt anyone."

The Balch Springs Police Department issued a statement on Sunday afternoon addressing the incident, although the department's police chief later retracted parts of the statement. The original statement said that Balch Springs officers were responding to a report of "several underage kids drunk walking around" the area when they heard gunfire. This resulted in "an unknown altercation with a vehicle backing down the street towards the Officers in an aggressive manner," the statement said.

"An Officer shot at the vehicle striking the front seat passenger," the original statement read. "One of the individuals was transported to a local hospital, where he later died of his injuries."

However, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said in a press conference Monday that, contrary to the department's earlier statement, the car with Edwards was driving away from the officers, not toward them. Haber also said that after reviewing video of the incident, he doesn't believe the officer's behavior "met our core values."

“I unintentionally [was] incorrect yesterday when I said the vehicle was backing down the road,” Haber said. “In fact, according to the video I viewed, the vehicle was moving forward as the officers approached." Police won't be releasing the video, Haver said, and will instead provide it to the grand jury.

Edwards was a freshman at Mesquite High School, where he was set to start as defensive back on the school's football team in spring. Football couch Jeff Fleener told the Dallas Morning News that he was "crushed and heartbroken" to hear of Edwards' death, and that the two had become fast friends during Edwards' short time at the school.

"The best thing in the world or the worst thing in the world would happen, and he'd smile, and everything would be OK," Fleener said. "You create a checklist of everything you would want in a player, a son, a teammate, a friend, and Jordan had all that. He was that kid."