Police in Texas shot and killed a 15-year-old boy as he was leaving a party on Saturday night, officials in Balch Springs, a Dallas suburb, said Sunday.
Jordan Edwards, a freshman at Mesquite High School, died after an officer fired multiple rounds at the car he was riding in. The car was filled with five teenagers, including Edwards and his 16-year-old brother, who were trying to leave a party after cops arrived.
On Tuesday, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber terminated Officer Roy Oliver, who was the second officer at the scene. The chief said Oliver, who has been with the department since July 2011, violated several departmental policies, but would not elaborate on which ones. Prosecutors are still investigating and could charge Oliver, who has the right to appeal.
The department had reversed their original account of the shooting on Monday, conceding that the car had been driving away when an officer shot at them with a rifle. Initially, police claimed that the vehicle had been backing up toward officers in "an aggressive manner."
After reviewing dashcam footage, Haber said that it was clear the vehicle was "moving forward as the officers approached."
"After viewing the video, I don't believe that it met our core values," Haber said.
"Not only have Jordan’s brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder. Their young lives will forever be altered. No one, let alone young children, should witness such horrific, unexplainable, violence," The Edwards family said in a statement on Tuesday.
In regards to releasing the footage, Officer Pedro Gonzalez told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that the department wanted to "release the video, but Dallas County Sheriff’s Office will be the Law Enforcement agency who makes the determination."
On Monday, the Dallas County medical examiner's office said that Edwards was shot with a rifle. The medical examiner also officially ruled Edwards' death a homicide, although the ruling does not have any bearing on possible criminal charges.
Officers wielding rifles is standard In Texas, Gonzalez said, as it legal in the state for residents to openly carry rifles in public.
According to police, the officers had been responding to a call about several drunk, underage "kids" walking around the neighborhood at around 11 p.m. Saturday, when they heard gun shots outside the party. Edwards had been leaving the party when an officer shot him through a front passenger window. He died "from his injuries" after being transported to a nearby hospital.
"We now know the officer fired a rifle into a car filled with black teens," said attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the Edwards family. "The car posed no imminent threat to the officer and there exist no alternative justification for the use of deadly force."
Police have not identified the officer involved, but said the officer is now on administrative leave. No officers were injured in the incident.
"On behalf of the entire Balch Springs Police Department and the city of Balch Springs, we express our deep, sincere condolences to the family," Haber said Sunday. "We will continue to reach out to the parents and keep them informed as we move forward from this point."
In an interview with BuzzFeed News Sunday night, Merritt disputed the police account of the incident. Witnesses at the party said they did not hear gunshots until after police arrived, he said, adding that the group of teens in the car were leaving the house because the gathering was getting rowdy.
"They heard police were coming and decided to leave the party. No one heard any gunfire until police arrived at the scene," Merritt said. He added that he spoke with the other teens in the vehicle, and that none had faced any charges for underage drinking and no weapons have been recovered at the scene.
Merritt also took issue with the police department's now-retracted claim that the driver was approaching officers in a threatening manner, explaining that the officer's bullet did not come from behind the vehicle, but had "entered the passenger side window and shattered it."
"They're insinuating that the car was backing up and threatened the officer but the injury is not consistent with that story," Merritt said. "The officer was standing right there."
Accompanied by the Edwards's parents at a press conference Monday, Merritt asked that the Balch Springs Police Department give any dashcam or body camera footage related to the shooting.
"We are declaring war on bad policing," he said. "This has happened far too often. We are tired of making the same rhetorical demands, and having the same hashtags."
Jasmine Crockett, another attorney at the press conference representing the Edwards family, told reporters that according to witness statements, the police officer involved in the shooting is a "white male," but Balch Springs Police have yet to release the identity of the officer.
Edwards' death sparked an outcry in the community and online.
Edwards' coaches and other Balch Springs residents packed into the police conference Sunday, demanding answers and expressing outrage, WFAA reported.
"He was the best running back I ever played with," Edwards' football teammate Chris Cano Jr. emotionally told CBS News. "I'll never forget him."
The Women's March also tweeted, "There are no words. #StopKillingBlackPeople"
Edwards was a good student who liked to play pool and was "just getting into" football, Merritt said. "He was just a really good kid. He was leaving a house party because he thought it was getting dangerous," he said.
The criminal investigation will be handled by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and the Dallas County Sheriff's Department. The Balch Springs Police Department will also conduct an internal review.
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