Black youths as prey: The killing of Jordan Edwards

This past weekend in Balch Springs, Texas, 15-year old Jordan Edwards was shot and killed by a police officer while he was sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle. The high school freshman was in the company of two of his brothers, and other friends, when police began firing at the car they were in. The boys had recently left a house party in the Dallas suburbs, that had been shut down, and allegedly were attempting to leave the scene when the incident unfolded.

In their initial statement, the police claimed that the vehicle was being driven backwards in an “aggressive manner,” but soon afterwards video from the body cam footage showed that the vehicle was actually moving away from the group of officers. After being hit, Edwards was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead as a result of the gunshot wound to his head. His 16-year-old brother was arrested and detained overnight, where he remained until the following morning when he learned of his sibling’s death. Authorities did not find alcohol or weapons in the car.

The police officer who shot Edwards and who spoke out against the boys has been fired. He has been identified as Roy Oliver, a six-year employee of the Balch Springs Police Department in suburban Dallas. Oliver told reporters that he “misspoke” in regards to the specifics of the occurrence, but has also backtracked on a number of other details. Since the launch of their investigation, the Balch Springs Police Department released an updated statement  stating that officer Oliver “violated several departmental policies,” affirming that there were contradictions in Oliver’s initial narrative. As of May 2, 2017 Roy Oliver was officially fired from the police force. He still has the right to appeal his firing, the Balch Springs PD told Reuters.

Despite outcry from Edwards’ family and from the public, no arrests have been made. This adds another young black man to the list of people fallen to police violence that has plagued the country. The Washington Post reported that in 2017 alone there have been 333 individuals killed at the hands of the police nationally, putting the U.S. on track for almost a thousand killings by year’s end. And while the exact number of black individuals this accounts for remains unclear, the prison pipeline’s disproportionate treatment of Black youths provides one indicator of the implicit bias in the criminal system.

In the meantime, the Edwards family is mourning the loss of their child. In a statement released by their attorney, S. Lee Merritt, the family thanks the community for their support and condolences. They also describe their grief over having lost not only a son, but a vibrant part of their family: “This entire ordeal has been inescapable. Jordan was a loving child, with a humble and sharing spirit. The bond that he shared with his family, particularly his siblings, was indescribable.” While they explicitly stated a desire for justice, they also asked the public to “please refrain from protests and marches in Jordan’s and our family’s name” as they prepare for his funeral.

While the community continues to mourn this loss, the Edwards family has made sure to continue highlighting all the positive attributes that made Jordan such a loved presence among family and friends. Edwards’ natural athletic abilities, positive attitude, and bright smile earned him praise from coaches, teachers, and friends alike.


Michelle Zacarias
Michelle Zacarias

Michelle Zacarias was a staff writer at People's World. A graduate of the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Zacarias invested her time in raising awareness on issues of social justice and equality. Michelle self identifies as multi-marginalized: as a Latina, a woman of color and a person with disabilities.