Police admit misspeaking about teen killed by cops

Jordan Edwards, 15, died after he was shot by a Balch Springs police officer.

ByABC News
May 1, 2017, 9:59 PM

— -- Authorities in Texas had to retract part of a statement about a police shooting of a 15-year-old boy, saying they "misspoke" in recounting what led up to the incident, which has been ruled a homicide.

On Saturday, police were called to a residence in Balch Springs, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, to respond to a report of "several underage kids" who were allegedly drunk, the Balch Springs Police Department said in a press release Sunday.

While the responding officers were investigating, they heard gunfire, police said. In its original release, the department said there was an "unknown altercation with a vehicle backing down the street toward the officers in an aggressive manner" before one of the two responding officers shot at the vehicle. At a press conference Sunday, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber reiterated that account of events.

The officer's gunshots struck the front passenger, later identified as high school freshman Jordan Edwards, 15, police said. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

However, Haber said in a press conference Monday that he "misspoke" the day before when he said the vehicle was backing up toward the officers.

After looking at body cam footage, Haber said it actually appears that the car was driving away from the officers when shots were fired.

Haber said after looking into the incident further, the details were "contradictory" to the original information that was provided to him on Sunday and he took responsibility for providing misinformation.

"I unintentionally, incorrectly said the vehicle was backing down the road," Haber said. "According to the video, the vehicle was moving forward as the officer approached."

Haber added, "After reviewing the video, I don’t believe that [the shooting] met our core values."

The video footage will not be released to the public, Haber said. The police chief also declined to answer questions as to what the video contained, due to the ongoing investigation.

Haber did not name the officer who shot Jordan but said he is a six-year veteran of the department and had not been involved in any similar incidents. The officer was removed from duty and placed on leave, Haber said.

Further information on the shooting was not immediately available from police.

PHOTO: Jordan Edwards, 15, appears in this screen grab from a WFAA video.
Jordan Edwards, 15, appears in this screen grab from a WFAA video.

Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Jordan's family, told ABC News that the 15-year-old was attending a house party with three or four dozen other teens when a noise and/or underage drinking complaint was made to police.

Once the party attendees were made aware that police were en route, the "crowd began to disperse," Merritt said.

Jordan, along with four companions, heard gunshots as they made their way to the car, which was driven by Jordan's 16-year-old brother, the eldest teen in the group, Merritt said. The teens "quickly" got into the vehicle when they heard one of the responding officers "shouting profanity in their direction," Merritt said.

That officer then opened fire "before they could respond to the shout," Merritt said.

The bullet entered the vehicle through the front passenger door, shattering the window and striking Jordan, Merritt said. Jordan's brother was at first unaware that his sibling had been hit and "attempted to get away from the gunshots," Merritt said.

Jordan's brother discovered that the 15-year-old had been shot about a block away and flagged down another squad car that passed by them. It was 10 to 15 minutes before Jordan received any medical care, Merritt said.

The Dallas County Medical Examiner ruled Jordan's death a homicide, ABC Dallas affiliate WFAA reported. The cause of death was listed as a rifle wound to the head.

Haber would not answer reporters' questions on why a rifle was the weapon used in the incident, citing the ongoing investigation. Merritt confirmed to ABC News that a rifle was used.

The police chief vowed to be "transparent" and "accountable" in the investigation.

"As the chief of police, I will continue to be forthcoming and transparent in the independent investigation by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office," Haber said.

The Balch Springs Police Department has been receiving death threats on social media following the incident, Haber said.

Haber said he had been in touch with Jordan's' family, to whom he offered his "sincere condolences."

"From one father to another, I can't even express what they're going through," he said.

Merritt said that he and the family are "pressing for the officer involved to be treated like any other American citizen who ... recklessly caused the death of another human being."

"We appreciate the chief being honest and transparent about the facts in the case," Merritt said. "It is not lost on us."

Merritt said the incident presented "no danger" to the officer and that there was "no justification" for the shooting. The family "anxiously awaits" the arrest of the officer who shot Jordan, Merritt said.

"Officers should be held to the same or higher standard as" regular citizens who commit crimes, Merritt added.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office is conducting an investigation into the shooting. The Balch Springs Police Department is conducting an internal investigation on its own.

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