Justice For JordanBy Jihad Hassan Muhammad -Contributing Editor- | Last updated: May 9, 2017 - 1:51:53 PM
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Killed for no reason? White officer faces murder charge for shooting 15-year-old Black child
BALCH SPRINGS, Texas - “Very well-liked by his teachers, coaches and fellow students” is how Jordan Edwards was described by the Mesquite, Texas school district where he attended high school.
Neighbors in Balch Springs, a suburb 15 miles outside of Dallas, remembered the 15-year-old 9th grade scholar and athlete as a beautiful person who cared for people.
A judge signed a murder warrant Friday afternoon May 5 for Roy Oliver, the man who fired the fatal shot that killed Jordan. The former Balch Springs Police officer was arrested and released on $300,000 bail. He was also fired by the police department.
Jordan’s brothers Vidal and Kevon, both 16, and two friends drove away from the party as Off. Oliver fired three shots into their vehicle.
One bullet fatally struck an unarmed, and non-threatening Jordan in the forehead.
“We must watch this closely, because it is not yet a victory that they charged the officer with murder,” said Hassane A. Muhammad of Black Lawyers For Justice.
“In Texas, the standard to be convicted of murder is that the defendant knowingly and willingly caused the death of another person, with manslaughter all you have to prove is that he recklessly caused the death of another person, you don’t have to prove the intent,” she explained. “What I am watching as well as other attorneys is if they have not brought the right charges—charges that they can prove.”
If not, the officer goes free, the attorney observed.
“There was a case called Tennessee v. Garner where the Supreme Court ruled that if the suspect poses no immediate threat to officers, and no threat to others, the harm resulting in failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so,” Atty. Muhammad continued. “Saying the vehicle was coming at him aggressively was going to be their cover and their out, until the camera proved otherwise, because there is no justification to use deadly force if someone is driving away. That is why they had to charge Roy Oliver.”
According to Atty. Pamela Muhammad, “Bail is given in most instances and is usually the norm if you don’t have prior criminal history. This case is such a straight up example of murder, in a righteous society he would be convicted. The fate of this also depends on the jury, will it be predominately White? We have to look at it.”
“I think it is a good thing, there has to be something done with them killing our youth. Most time they are always found not guilty, let’s hope for the family that this goes in the right direction,” said Queen Mother Akwete Tyehimba, a longtime activist and owner of Pan-African Connection bookstore.
Jordan’s brother, father mistreated by police?“Not only have Jordan’s brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder. Their young lives will be forever altered,” the Edwards family said in a statement.
Atty. Lee Merritt, who represents the family, said that no one in the car displayed aggression or threatened police. They were simply leaving the party as many of the youth were dispersing at the time. “To insinuate that there was some sort of bad acts on their part that caused an officer to shoot multiple rounds into a vehicle occupied by teenagers, there is no justification. We are declaring war on bad policing,” said Atty. Merritt.
Officers from the Balch Springs Police Department detained the other teens as Jordan’s body lay dead in the seat next to them, with a hole in his head. They offered no emergency medical services to help revive or care for Jordan, said the family attorney.
“After seeing his brother get shot, Jordan’s older brother was handcuffed and taken by police for no particular reason,” said Atty. Merritt. His brother was not charged with any crime, the teens were never suspects of any kind, he added.
They had no drugs or weapons.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Vidal Jordan was called a “n----r” by the police as he was shaken, and scared with the shooting of his little brother. He could not easily follow their instructions. An officer reportedly said “this n----r can’t tell his left from his right.”
The aggressive police behavior did not stop with teens, said the attorney. Balch Springs police officers attempted to detain Jordan’s father when he came to the station asking about his sons.
“Balch Springs PD called the Dallas County Sheriff’s office and asked if they could restrain Jordan’s father because of his ‘hostile’ behavior,” said Atty. Merritt.
The city of Balch Springs is approximately 24 percent Black, with a long history of racist behavior by its police department.
The city’s mayor is a Black woman and she has said little about the death of Jordan Edwards. At Final Call press time, she had not responded to requests for comment.
A police department with a troubled racial past?
Atty. Merritt told The Final Call that one of the city’s first Black police officers resigned because of a culture of racism inside the department. “From what I understand they would use racial slurs when referring to him. He would be told things like his reports was done in ebonics, along with the slurs,” the lawyer said. According to the attorney, the Black officer left Balch Springs and flourished with a position inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Balch Springs police could not be reached for comment about past racial incidents.
Regarding the death of Jordan Edwards, the police department said it will seek justice. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber quickly turned the investigation over to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office said its civil rights team is looking at the case. An “impartial and independent investigation” has been promised.
Chief Haber initially stated that the vehicle the teens drove was aggressively driving backward toward officers. Chief Haber corrected his statement May 1, saying he misspoke. On video from the scene, the teen driver backed up driving away from police when Off. Oliver shot Jordan in the head on the passenger side, said police.
Off. Oliver’s statement was false, saying the teens were driving toward him aggressively as he began to shoot.
Chief Haber justified the Oliver firing by saying the officer’s actions “did not meet the core values of the Balch Springs police department.”
The Dallas County Medical Examiner has classified Jordan’s death a homicide by rifle wound to the head.
NBC News reported via a FOIA document that in 2013 an internal disciplinary report was filed saying Off. Oliver “failed to comply” with the Balch Springs Code of Ethics. Off. Oliver reportedly had an interaction with several district attorneys in court and yelled profane language while on the witness stand. He was suspended.
Ed Morris, former Balch Springs police chief, reportedly said Off. Oliver “was a scary person to have in our workroom.”
Files also show Off. Oliver gained a low score on “the extent to which this employee is able to communicate with the public as well as other employees both verbally and in writing.”
The next year, 2014, Off. Oliver was recommended to “familiarize” himself with “policies and procedures” as to help him “result in less paperwork over policy violations.”
Some in the community think policing of Black neighborhoods must change and Black men must police their community—as opposed to aggressive, vitriolic and racist White officers. Too many Black men, women, and children throughout America have died at the hands of police, they said.
“We have to train our brothers and be present in our communities as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has united us for with the 10,000 Fearless,” said Al Shaheed Muhammad, the Dallas representative of Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. He oversees Muhammad Mosque No. 48 in South Dallas.
“We plan to be active, engaging our youth, and having places for them to go throughout the summer where they can have fun and socialize, but it will be secured by us so we don’t have to worry about these police coming and killing our babies,” said the Muslim student minister.
The community of Balch Springs and the greater Dallas area were struck by the shooting but no immediate protests happened as the family asked that no protests, or community action happen until after Jordan’s funeral on May 6.
America’s policing crisis
“We must raise our voices against the national disgrace of police homicide, and brutality. Jordan Edwards’ killing shakes the foundation of America from here to D.C., will we respond or will his hashtag be swallowed up by the next police killing?” asked John Fullinwider of Mothers Against Police Brutality, a national organization founded by Collette Flanagan, whose son Clinton Allen was killed by a Dallas police officer in 2013. Many other organizations, clergy, and activists were following developments in Jordan’s death.
Jordan is the youngest person killed by a police officer this year.
Anger grew because of his age and the apparent senselessness of the police shooting. He was unarmed and there was no confrontation.
“We will fight, fight, and fight and get nothing in the end. Truth is, I really don’t even know what justice looks like, as we spoke to the family this evening, justice suggests fairness, and restoration,” said Shaun King, nationally known activist and writer. Mr. King spent time with the Edwards family and shared words during a gathering at a Dallas church.
Mr. King likened Jordan’s killing to the murder of Emmett Till, saying as the 1955 lynching of the 14-year-old helped to spark the civil rights movement, Jordan’s killing could spark a great movement against police killings in America.
“He like Till, a wonderful, beautiful, special, young man was killed in the most heinous way,” said Mr. King.
Atty. Merritt says the family wants the conviction of Roy Oliver for killing of their son and other officers punished for their complicity with wrongs committed that fateful Saturday night.
As the community of Balch Springs hopes for justice, signs of injustice persist. Just days after Jordan’s killing, the Justice Dept. decided not to file charges against White police officers for killing a Black man, Alton Sterling, in Louisiana last year. (See related story on page 4.)
And, President Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has spoken strongly in support of officers and said little about holding officers accountable. The Justice Dept., however, obtain a guilty plea from Off. Michael Slager, who was accused of killing unarmed Black motorist Walter Scott last year. Mr. Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation. There are questions about how likely the ex-cop is to receive the maximum life sentence. A judge could decide to give him five to 20 years in prison.
None of that, however, changes things for Jordan. “Officer Oliver is out on bail at his home with his family, but Jordan Edwards will never be at home again with his family,” said Yafeuh Balogun, co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club in Dallas.