He might be the last person you’d expect to die in a police shooting.
Straight-A student. Talented athlete.
Yet 15-year-old Jordan Edwards is dead — the latest unarmed black male to be killed during an encounter with the police.
Who he was
Jordan Edwards was a freshman at Mesquite High School, near his home in Balch Springs, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He had good grades and played quarterback and receiver on the football team.
Head coach Jeff Fleener, who would have coached the teenager next year, said Jordan had an incredible effect on his teammates.
“He was an amazing young man that had a way to make everyone around him feel better,” Fleener wrote on Twitter. “He had such an impact on all of us and we refuse to let anyone tarnish that.”
— Jeff Fleener (@CoachFleen) May 1, 2017
On Tuesday, the team held their first spring training in pads. Earlier, Fleener struggled with how to discuss the teenager’s death with his players.
Fleener told CNN there’s no coach’s manual on how to deal with the situation.
“I just tried to speak to them from the heart about what I was feeling and to be very open and honest about my emotions,” Fleener said.
Fleener, who was recently named coach two months ago, said he and Jordan had become close. The teenager shook his hand and welcomed him to the team.
Jordan was excited about playing his sophomore year and was going to work out at defensive back, his coach said.
“He was a coach’s dream. He was exactly the type of kid that you want in a program. He was always in a great mood,” Fleener said.
The team plans to keep Jordan’s locker intact and possibly design a helmet decal with his freshman number — No. 11 — to honor him, Fleener said.
Counselors were at the school Monday and some tests were being delayed to give students a chance to cope with their grief, CNN affiliate KTVT reported.
Family friend Chris Cano said it was hard to believe Jordan was gone.
“I still can’t believe it,” Cano told KTVT. “I want to see his smile again.”
The school district released a statement expressing condolences to Jordan’s family and friends.
“He was a good student who was very well liked by his teachers, coaches and his fellow students,” the statement reads. “The entire district — especially the staff and students of Mesquite High School — are mourning this terrible loss.”
Jordan’s parents, Charmaine and Odell Edwards, haven’t talked to the media about their son’s death, but the family issued a statement Tuesday through S. Lee Merritt, their attorney.
“Jordan was a loving child, with a humble and sharing spirit. The bond that he shared with his family, particularly his siblings, was indescribable,” it said.
“While our family attempts to cope with our loss, we ask at this time the community please refrain from protests and marches in Jordan’s and our family’s name as we prepare for his funeral.”
The family also said they don’t condone threats or violence against the Balch Springs police. But Merritt said the family does want the officer who killed their son arrested. The officer has not been named.
Edwards was shot and killed Saturday night as he and a group of friends were leaving a house party. The party had attracted a ton of teens so a neighbor called police, worried about possible underage drinking.
After Balch Springs officers showed up to break up the party, the teens scattered, including Edwards and a few of his friends, who piled into a car driven by his older brother. The car then took off.
One officer shot into the vehicle with a rifle as it was driving away, hitting Edwards in the head. He was sitting in the front seat, according to the Balch Springs Police Department. Originally Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber had said the officer fired after the car drove “aggressively” toward him and another cop — but he later said he misspoke.
Body camera footage showed the car was driving forward, away from the officers, not reversing toward them as he originally reported. The officer’s behavior “did not meet our core values,” Haber said.
Police were looking for the owners of the house when shots were allegedly heard in the area, creating chaos right before Jordan was shot, according to Balch Springs Police Public Information Officer Oscar Gonzalez.
Haber declined to comment on whether any shots were confirmed to have been fired or whether the boys in the car were armed, citing the ongoing investigation.
Merritt, the attorney representing Jordan’s family, expressed concern that the police department’s initial version of events — that the teens in the car were aggressively driving towards the officers — was perhaps being used as an excuse.
“We’ve heard excuses before in the past: You know why it happens, because the dads aren’t present. That excuse isn’t here,” Merritt said. “Or the kid was violent. That excuse isn’t present here.”
Merritt said that neither Jordan nor any of the other teens in the car had criminal records and no evidence had so far been presented by police that they were trying to hurt anyone.
Other police shootings
There have been other cases where police have been accused of trying to craft a negative narrative about a black male shooting victim in an attempt to justify the use of deadly force.
Such accusations surfaced in Ferguson, Missouri, back in 2014 in the police shooting death of Michael Brown. Brown, 18, was shot and killed by former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson after Wilson approached Brown and a friend, who were walking in the middle of the street, and told them to walk on the sidewalk. Authorities said Wilson killed the teen after Brown attacked Wilson in his car and tried to take his gun.
The Ferguson Police Department had released a video of Brown’s involvement in an alleged robbery at a convenience story on the day he was killed. The police department was widely criticized for this, with many activists saying the robbery had nothing to do with the reason why he was stopped by Wilson that day.
Both a grand jury and the US Justice Department declined to pursue charges against Wilson.
Last year, Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer Betty Shelby shot and killed Terence Crutcher in the middle of a roadway. Crutcher’s vehicle had broken down. Shelby said she thought Crutcher, who was standing outside of his disabled vehicle, was reaching through a window to grab a weapon. Video of the incident shows Crutcher with his hands up prior to his death. No weapon was found in his car. Shelby is charged with felony manslaughter.
In 2014, a Chicago police officer shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. For more than a year the police said officers shot McDonald after he lunged at them at close range with a knife. But dashcam video of the shooting, released on a judge’s order, contradicted nearly everything the police had said. The video showed McDonald was several feet away from the officers and was walking away from police when he was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with six counts of first-degree murder.
Merritt said it was time for such deadly encounters between police and unarmed black men to come to an end. “We are declaring war on bad policing,” he said. “This has happened far too often.”