Dallas County District Attorney Previously Complained about Balch Springs Officer's Conduct

Jordan Edwards, 15, was shot by a police officer while he, his brothers and two friends were driving away from an unruly house party

A Balch Springs police officer who shot and killed a 15-year-old black teenager Saturday had previously faced a conduct complaint from the Dallas County District Attorney's Office over aggressive behavior, according to personnel records obtained by The Associated Press.

The personnel records also included periodic evaluations that noted at least one instance when Oliver was reprimanded for being "disrespectful to a civilian on a call." That evaluation, dated January 27, 2017, called the reprimand an isolated incident and urged Oliver to be mindful of his leadership role in the department.

The complaint from the prosecutor's office said the office had a hard time getting Oliver to attend the trial, he was angry he had to be there, he used vulgar language that caused an assistant district attorney to send a female intern out of the room, and he used profanity during his testimony.

"In an email from one of the prosecutors he states you were a `scary person to have in our workroom,"' then-Balch Springs Police Chief Ed Morris wrote in the suspension findings.

Oliver joined the Balch Springs department in 2011 after being an officer with the Dalworthington Gardens Police Department for almost a year. A statement from Dalworthington Gardens officials late Wednesday included some details of that and previous intermittent employment as a dispatcher and public works employee between 1999 and 2004.

The statement said he received an award for "meritorious conduct" as a dispatcher and there were no documented complaints or disciplinary action in either his work as a public safety officer or dispatcher. Between his employment as a dispatcher and officer in the Dallas suburb, he was in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of sergeant while serving two tours in Iraq and earning various commendations. He served for two years in the Texas National Guard reserves through 2012.

After the Dallas County Attorney's Office complained about Oliver's behavior, Morris suspended the officer for 16 hours, which Oliver completed by forfeiting two sick days. Oliver was also ordered to take training courses in anger management and courtroom demeanor and testimony.

Heath Harris, the former first assistant district attorney under Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, said he did not remember the incident or which of the many courts might have been involved. He said he did not believe it would impact the office's ability to investigate the shooting.

"I don't think that it will impact this investigation at all, other than the fact that it's something that clearly the defense will try to use," Harris said. "But DA (Faith) Johnson has already stated that the investigation by the public integrity unit will be independent and based solely on the facts of the shooting."

That office is now investigating the shooting Saturday night in which Oliver fired a rifle at a car full of teenagers leaving a party, striking and killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.

It took a few moments for Edwards' 16-year-old brother, who was driving, and other passengers to notice that he was slumped over in his seat. His brother pulled over and tried to call for help.

Police ordered him to step out of the car and back away. As he moved, he heard someone call him a racial slur, according to family lawyers Jasmine Crockett and Lee Merritt.

Oliver was fired Tuesday after the department said he violated department policies. The family said the department still needs to address the racial slur, and wants Oliver to be charged with murder.

Top Texas Democrats called on Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, to work to discourage shootings by police. Several such proposals have stalled in the Legislature.

Democrats took issue with Abbott's muted response to Edward's death, especially given his more spirited response to subsequent stabbings at the University of Texas and the shooting of a Dallas paramedic.

"This is not a Dallas problem, this is not a Balch Springs problem," state Rep. Helen Giddings, a Democrat from Dallas, said at a news conference in Austin. "It is a dangerous disease that is threatening young black males, most of whom are unarmed."

Abbott responded to The Associated Press with a brief statement saying his "heart goes out to the Edwards family during this incredibly difficult time." His statement added, "No parent should ever have to experience the pain of losing a child, and the Edwards family deserves a fair and full investigation into this tragedy."

Following Abbott, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) and Speaker Joe Straus (R) also issued statements on Edwards' death Thursday.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the Edwards family for the loss of their son Jordan. The Texas Senate adjourned in his memory on the Senate floor yesterday. I expect the Balch Springs police department to fully investigate this incident and I have faith that justice will be served," Patrick said.

“The death of Jordan Edwards was an absolute tragedy, and all of us grieve for Jordan, his family and the community. Some very critical questions about Jordan’s death need to be answered fully and transparently. All of us should be deeply concerned about these tragedies and their frequency, and I will work with any of my legislative colleagues who are interested in preventing similar tragedies in the future," said Straus.

Messages left with Oliver's attorney and with a spokeswoman at the prosecutor's office Thursday were not immediately returned.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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