A suburban Dallas 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.
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber told reporters that police video contradicted his department's original statement about the Saturday night shooting of Jordan Edwards. Edwards, a high school freshman, had gotten into a vehicle with four other teenagers to leave a house party as police were arriving to investigate an underage drinking complaint, according to his family's attorney, Lee Merritt.
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."
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."
Indeed, thousands of Facebook and Twitter users have posted about the case in recent days with the hashtag "#jordanedwards," some comparing his death to other police shootings of young black men, such as 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland who was fatally shot in November 2014 as he held a pellet gun.
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 said he was troubled by what he saw.
"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.
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 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.