Political News

Family sues Texas officer, department in 15-year-old's death

Posted May 7

— The family of a black 15-year-old shot and killed by a white suburban Dallas police officer has sued the officer and his department, accusing the department of inadequately training the officer and ignoring warning signs that he was prone to erratic behavior.

Jordan Edwards' funeral was Saturday, one week after he was shot dead in a vehicle leaving a house party in Balch Springs, Texas. According to the Edwards family's lawyers, Officer Roy Oliver fired his rifle at the vehicle as it was driving away, piercing a passenger-side window and striking Edwards.

Oliver was fired last week and arrested on a murder charge.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, says police should have known Oliver had "exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public," including a prosecutor's complaint about his aggressive behavior detailed in personnel records. The complaint said prosecutors had a hard time getting Oliver to attend a trial and used language vulgar enough that one prosecutor sent an intern out of the room. Oliver received a 16-hour suspension over the complaint.

But the lawsuit also blames Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber and the department for having "failed to provide adequate training to Oliver on appropriate methods and techniques to control situations similar to the one" that occurred on the night of April 29, when police were called to investigate underage drinking at a chaotic house party with dozens of teenagers.

"There was no reason that any person in America — not just a black person — should ever have to bury their 15-year-old child who was doing everything right in life," Jasmine Crockett, one of the family's attorneys, said Sunday.

Crockett said attorneys filed the lawsuit to preserve the legal rights of the teenager's father, Odell Edwards. The lawsuit broadly seeks damages for Edwards' wrongful death, but does not list a specific amount of money. No hearings have been scheduled.

Even with the quick action to fire and arrest Oliver, as Edwards' family and people protesting the shooting had demanded, "people are still nervous and expecting to be disappointed," Crockett said.

"That's what we expect from our system time and time again," she said.

The day after the shooting, police issued a statement saying the vehicle was reversing toward officers "in an aggressive manner." Haber would correct that statement Monday after reviewing police video footage, saying the vehicle was actually driving away from the officers when Oliver fired his rifle.

Balch Springs' use of force policy — in line with national recommendations — instructs officers to avoid shooting at moving vehicles unless their lives or others' are in imminent danger. But the lawsuit says officials had the responsibility to determine whether Oliver knew how to respond.

"Oliver's inadequate training resulted in the death of Edwards," the lawsuit said.

A spokesman for police and an attorney for Oliver, Cindy Stormer, did not return messages Sunday seeking comment on the lawsuit.

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