A 15-year-old boy was shot and killed by police in a Dallas suburb was shot in the head by a rifle, Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office said.
The medical examiner’s office said Monday that Jordan Edwards’s death was ruled a homicide. The teen, who has been identified by family members, was killed Saturday night on a residential street in Balch Springs.
But by Sunday, there two different versions of what prompted the fatal shooting.
Balch Springs police chief Jonathan Haber told reporters at a news conference Sunday afternoon that officers were dispatched to the 12300 block of Baron Drive in Balch Springs after receiving a 911 call at 11 p.m. reporting several drunken teens walking around the neighborhood.
Once officers arrived, they heard gunshots, Haber said. In what police described as an “unknown altercation,” a vehicle then began “backing down the street toward the officers in an aggressive manner.” One officer shot at the vehicle, Haber said, striking the front seat passenger.
Jordan, a high school freshman, was transported to a hospital, where he died.
The officer, whose name has not been released, was placed on administrative duty. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office are conducting their own investigations into the shooting, and the Balch Springs police department will oversee an internal investigation.
“On behalf of the entire Balch Springs Police Department and the city of Balch Springs we express our sincere condolences with the family,” Haber said during the news conference. “I have reached out and personally met and spoken with the parents and expressed my condolences as well.”
Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Jordan’s family, has challenged the police account of Saturday night’s fatal shooting, claiming the five teens inside the car were not driving aggressively, but backing out of a parking space.
“Another family ripped apart by police brutality,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “There was absolutely no justification for this murder. We demand justice!”
In a phone interview with The Washington Post on Sunday night, Merritt said Jordan, his 16-year-old brother and three other teen boys were at a party on Baron Drive when they learned that police were on the way.
They went to the car parked outside and saw flashlights and heard gunshots, Merritt said. As they climbed into the car, the teens apparently heard somebody yell profanities. Then they were being fired upon.
They fled for about a block, Merritt said, before they noticed there was smoke coming from Jordan’s head. The driver of the car, the boy’s older brother, stopped the car and they flagged down an approaching police cruiser for help.
Several of the teens played on the football team together. Jordan was going through spring training for next year’s season.
“They’re never going to be the same,” Merritt said. “These kids are never going to be the same.”
Merritt claimed three bullets were fired into the car. They came through the driver’s side window, he said.
Jordan and the four teens with him had not been drinking, according to Merritt. They were not cited for underage drinking and have not been charged with any crimes, he said.
According to reporting from the NBC affiliate in Dallas, all Balch Springs squad cars have dash cameras and officers wear body cameras. Merritt said he was told there is body camera footage of the incident and that it has been turned over to the sheriff’s office.
Requests for comment from The Washington Post were not immediately answered by Balch Springs police, including on what policies the department has on shooting into moving vehicles.
Many major law enforcement agencies, federal officials and policing experts advise against shooting into moving vehicles, according to a 2015 investigation by the Guardian. The risk of harming an innocent party is too great, the Guardian reported, and the shots don’t often stop the vehicle.
In 2016, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — the largest sheriff’s department in America — wrote a new policy essentially banning officers from firing into a moving vehicle unless they feel threatened by something else, like a weapon.
“Firearms shall not be discharged at a stationary or moving vehicle, the occupants of a vehicle, or the tires of a vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is imminently threatening the Department member or another person present with deadly force by means other than the moving vehicle.”