Police in Balch Springs, Texas initially claimed a car was reversing toward them “in an aggressive manner” when an officer fired three shots into the back of the vehicle, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, an unarmed black teen. Now the department admits the car was driving away when the fatal shots were fired.
“I was incorrect yesterday when I said the vehicle was backing down the road,” Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said during a Monday afternoon press conference, calling his earlier statements “unintentionally” wrong. He said he only realized his earlier statement was incorrect after reviewing body camera footage of the killing.
Edwards, a freshman at Mesquite High School in suburban Dallas, was attending a house party on Saturday night when he and other partygoers heard gunshots, his family’s attorney Lee Merritt told media. Edwards left the party and got into a car with his brother and three other teenagers. None of the teens were armed.
But police, responding to the scene, pulled a gun on the car as it left the party. Merritt said the vehicle’s occupants heard someone cursing at them before three bullets pierced the car, striking and killing Edwards.
In a Sunday statement, Haber accused the teenagers of antagonizing police, driving the car in reverse toward responding officers “in an aggressive manner.” But Merritt said Haber’s allegation, that Edwards’ 16-year-old brother had aggressively reversed the car toward police, “will not hold water when the facts come out.”
And a review of body camera footage apparently proved Merritt correct: the car had been driving away from police when an unnamed officer opened fire. The incident is now under investigation.
“I can tell you that I do have questions in relation to my observations on the video, and what is consistent with the policies and core values of the Balch Springs Police Department,” Haber said.
Edwards’ death has sparked an outcry, in part due to its similarities to other police shootings of unarmed black children. Edwards had been a standout student and athlete, “who was very well liked by his teachers, coaches, and his fellow students,” his school district announced in a statement. A friend on Edwards’ football team called him the “best running back I ever played with … I still can’t believe it. I want to see his smile again.”
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson announced an independent investigation into the shooting. Both she and Haber expressed their condolences to Edwards’ family.
“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. “We will continue to reach out to the parents and keep them informed as we move forward from this point.”