Police change key detail in report of shooting of black teen; case takes starkly different direction

The Balch Springs Police Department changed a major detail in the investigation of the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager that occurred  Saturday night.

Jordan Edwards, 15, died from a gunshot wound to the head after law enforcement fired a rifle into the vehicle the teen was riding in as it was driving away from a house party in a Dallas suburb.

Balch Springs PD initially reported that the vehicle was being driven in an “aggressive manner” and that the car was in reverse, moving toward the police officers. However, video footage of the incident disproves the department’s claim.

Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber corrected the initial statement after reviewing the footage.

“I was unintentionally incorrect yesterday when I said that the victim’s vehicle was backing down the road,” Haber said Monday. “In fact, according to the video that I viewed, the vehicle was moving forward as the officers approached.”

Haber said that the officer who shot the teen was put on administrative leave and that the officer “did not meet our core values.”

Edwards was in the front passenger seat when the officer shot at the vehicle and struck Edwards in the head, killing him.

Officials ruled the death a homicide. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s office are conducting a criminal investigation.

Officers responded to the scene Saturday night after neighbors reported underage drinking at a party of about 100 teens.

Initially, officers claimed they reacted offensively because they heard what they thought were gunshots. In response, the officer fired several shots into the vehicle leaving the party, killing Edwards.

Edwards was a freshman football player at Mesquite High School and was held in high regard by his peers. Edwards’ football coach, Jeff Fleener, told the Dallas Morning News that Edwards was a good kid.

“You create a checklist of everything you would want in a player, a son, a teammate, a friend, and Jordan had all that,” Fleener told The Dallas Morning News. “He was that kid.”

Fleener told the New York Times that Edwards also had a stellar record.

“He was everybody’s friend — his attitude and smile, everything was just contagious about him,” he said. “He was excellent — 3.5 G.P.A., never in trouble, no attendance issues. He was a kid that did everything right.”

On Monday a suburban Dallas police chief acknowledged that an officer who fatally shot a black 15-year-old in a moving vehicle fired as the car was driving away. The department had previously asserted the car reversed toward officers. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber told reporters that police video contradicted his department's original statement about the killing of Jordan Edwards. Edwards was a high school freshman. He had gotten into a vehicle with four other teenagers to leave a house party. Police first said the vehicle backed up toward police 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."

Lee Merritt, attorney for the slain teen’s family, issued a statement during a news conference on Monday.

“We are declaring war on bad policing. America throughout the country must figure out a way to police its citizens without killing them,” the statement said.

“There were no weapons involved; there was no aggressive behavior; these were not suspects,” Merritt told the Times Monday. “The lone motive they had for the murder was that the vehicle was being used as a weapon, and now that is no longer there.”

Merritt has publicly called for the arrest of the officer who shot Edwards.

“They have a dead child, they have the identity of the shooter, and they have no explanation for the shooting,” Merritt told the Times. “They have more than sufficient probable cause to make an arrest.”