The Justice Department is investigating the Dallas-area shooting in which a police officer who fired his rifle into a car full of teens, killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, has been charged with murder.
Jordan’s parents have filed a civil lawsuit against the Balch Springs Police Department and against Roy Oliver, the officer who was fired after the April 29 shooting and has been released after posting bond on the murder charge.
“We want to see a genuine effort, with all resources available, to prosecute not only the officer that has been named, Roy Oliver, but every officer involved in wrongdoing, in the cover up, and the harassment of Jordan Edwards’ brothers — and the injustice on that evening,” family attorney Lee Merritt said after a meeting with the Dallas County District Attorney on Thursday.
Attorney Daryl Washington stressed that the family filed the civil lawsuits to ensure transparency throughout the process, not for money.
“We want to know this police officer,” Washington said of the need to release Oliver’s work history. “We need to know if this officer was involved in prior conduct. We should not be protecting a police officer.”
Two weeks before the shooting, Oliver reportedly was rear-ended while off duty and pulled his handgun on the other driver; the woman said he didn’t identify himself as a police officer. The civil suit also notes that Oliver had been suspended over “aggressive behavior” in a previous case.
“We hope that at the conclusion of this lawsuit, every police officer that was involved in this incident, indirectly or directly, are no longer on the police force,” Washington said.
Jordan was at a house party with his brothers in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs when a neighbor called police on suspicion that there was drinking at the bash thrown by a teenager whose parents were out of town.
In the midst of the commotion as two officers came to break up the party, a few gunshots were heard with the origin unknown. Investigators have since learned that the shots were not at the party but came from the parking lot of a nearby nursing home.
The Balch Springs Police Department said their officers were inside the home at the time and “immediately exited the residence to investigate the gunshots.” Jordan, a straight-A student and football player at Mesquite High School, his brothers Vidal and Kevon, and two friends who are twin brothers jumped in a car to get away from the scene after hearing the shots, Merritt said.
One of the officers at the scene fired three shots at the departing car. At least one of the rifle rounds struck Jordan in the head through the passenger window, killing the teen.
None of the other teens in the car are facing any charges. The family’s lawsuit states that as Jordan’s brother Vidal was ordered out of the car and was confused by police instructions he heard an officer say, “This [N-word] can’t tell his left from his right.”
“It has been determined Roy Oliver, who was the second officer at the scene, violated several departmental policies,” the department said in a statement days after the shooting. “The Balch Springs Police Department cannot give further details on which policies have been violated since Roy Oliver can appeal the termination.” Oliver, 37, had been with the department since 2011 and was previously in the Army, with service in Iraq.
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber first said the officer claimed the car was backing up toward him in an “aggressive manner,” but later said he “misspoke” and body cam video showed the car moving away from the officer when he fired into the vehicle.
“Not only have Jordan’s brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless murder,” Jordan’s parents, Charmaine and Odell Edwards, said in a statement. “Their young lives will forever be altered. No one, let alone young children, should witness such horrific, unexplainable violence.”
Another family attorney, Jasmine Crockett, said she was concerned about the charges after this week’s meeting with the DA.
“For instance, I don’t understand why Oliver was not charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” she said. “There were other kids in that car. An aggravated assault deadly weapon charge is easier to make than a murder charge any day of the week.”
One of the boys in the car, Maximus Everette, told the local NBC affiliate, “We were just kids leaving a party. We shouldn’t have to fear the police when our parents teach us to respect them. So I don’t see why they would fear kids leaving a party.”