The Balch Springs police chief acknowledged Monday that an officer who fatally shot a black 15-year-old in a moving vehicle fired as the car was driving away – not as it reversed toward officers, as the department had previously asserted.
Police Chief Jonathan Haber told reporters that police video contradicted his department's original statement about the Saturday night shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
Edwards, a high school freshman, had gotten into a vehicle with four other teenagers after leaving a house party in the Dallas suburb as police were arriving to investigate an underage drinking complaint, according to his family's attorney, Lee Merritt.
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According to police, the shooting occurred at about 11 p.m. as officers responded to a 911 call reporting intoxicated teens walking around in the 12300 block of Baron Drive.
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."
"They were simply leaving a party where they believed danger was, and so I can't wrap my mind around why an officer decided to shoot into the car," Merritt said.
Before Haber's update, Merritt and the teen's family held their own news conference, during which Merritt accused police of "offering facts that they believe paint a picture that would justify the unjustifiable." He later told The Associated Press that Jordan's shooting brings to mind the high-profile deaths of other black people after police encounters that have sparked outrage and protest in recent years, but that this case stood out for its "sheer recklessness."
"This has happened far too often," Merritt said. "We are tired of making the same rhetorical demands, of having the same hashtags."
Merritt said Edwards' family wants to see the officer fired and criminally charged. The police chief called for time to let authorities complete their investigations. Haber wouldn't identify the officer and didn't release his race, but said he had been "removed from all duties" and placed on leave.
Haber also wouldn't release the police video or describe it in detail other than to acknowledge he erred in describing the encounter, but he said he was troubled by what he saw.
The chief that the officer involved in the shooting "did not meet core values."
"I do have questions in relation to my observation on the video and what is consistent with the policies and core values of the Balch Springs Police Department," Haber said.
"It did not meet our core values. We have a certain set of values and it did not meet our values," Haber later added.
Balch Springs' official use-of-force policy encourages officers facing an oncoming vehicle to "attempt to move out of its path, if possible, instead of discharging a firearm at it or any of its occupants." The policy was posted online by 'Point of Impact,' a series on police shootings reported by freelance journalist Eva Ruth Moravec. It echoes the advice given by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Haber did not return phone and email messages Monday seeking clarification about whether he believed the officer violated the policy on Saturday night. The Dallas County district attorney's and sheriff's offices are investigating the shooting. A spokeswoman for the sheriff said its probe was in the "preliminary stages."
The original police statement about the shooting said officers responded to a report of "several underage kids drunk walking around." It doesn't specify whether the passengers of the vehicle in which Jordan was riding were among them.
Merritt said there was no alcohol found in the car and no evidence that the passengers had been drinking.
Edwards' family and friends gathered Monday evening at Mesquite High School for a vigil in the teen's honor. Friends said they'll remember his smile fondly.
"It was always up, never went down," said friend Chris Cano.
Cano's dad, also named Chris, coached the football team Edwards played on a few years ago and added, "It could have easily been my son."
Edwards was a freshman honor roll student and athlete at the high school.
Dozens of friends gathered alongside former coaches at Gentry Elementary, where Edwards started playing pee-wee football, Monday evening for a vigil.
In a written statement, the district said the following:
"Mesquite ISD's deepest sympathies and prayers are with the family and friends of this young man who tragically lost his life late Saturday evening. He was a good student who was very well liked by his teachers, coaches and his fellow students. The entire district -- especially the staff and students of Mesquite High School -- are mourning this terrible loss."
Edwards' wake will be held at the Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church from 7 to 9 pm Friday. His funeral will be held at the church on Saturday at 11 a.m.
The police department is conducting its own internal affairs investigation.
The officer has been placed on administrative duty. The officer's name has not been released. He has been with the Balch Springs Police Department for six years, according to the police chief.
The Associated Press' Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.