Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Jordan Edwards & Cops Using Cars As License to Kill

Jordan Edwards, shot & killed by Balch Springs PD
Given the high profile announcements of bold policy changes from America's revamped Department of Justice over the past few weeks, the DOJ's silence in recent days has been deafening.

Particularly in the wake of the shocking death of 15-year-old Mesquite High School freshman Jordan Davis late Saturday evening in Texas at the hands of police officer Roy Oliver.

As multiple media outlets, including the Dallas News, are reporting, Jordan was one of what witnesses said were about a hundred teenagers who were attending a party at the home of a woman named Lisa Roberson on Saturday night in Balch Springs, Texas about 15 miles from Dallas.

Roberson was out of town, and like millions of other American teens (including your's truly) have done on occasion, her son threw a party.

But problems arose when large numbers of teens began milling about in neighbor's driveways on Baron Drive, and a resident named Dora Daniels called police because she was concerned about underage drinking.

When members of the Balch Springs PD arrived, teens naturally began scattering and at some point multiple witnesses heard what sounded like gun shots - which, given the conservative Republican-majority Texas state legislature's efforts to allow people to openly carry firearms virtually anywhere in public, isn't all that surprising.

Hearing the shots, Jordan Edwards, his two brothers Vidal and Kevon and two other friends jumped in a car and tried to drive away, but according to witnesses, a Balch Springs PD officer Roy Oliver approached the vehicle and was heard cursing loudly before he fired three shots from a rifle into the passenger side window - striking Davis in the head and killing him.

Edwards two brothers and their two other friends were roughly handcuffed and arrested as their brother and friend lay bleeding in the front seat of the vehicle.

Heartbroken parents Charmaine and Odell Edwards
at a press conference on Monday 
The specifics of this latest example of excessive use of force by police against a young unarmed man are painfully familiar to most Americans.

Jordan Edwards wasn't committing a crime.

He was unarmed and he'd done absolutely nothing to threaten or harm anyone, including the police officer who shot him in the head with a rifle.

The officer who shot him initially tried a tactic familiar to Americans too:

He lied to investigators to try and make it seem like he "feared for his personal safety" in order to try and justify taking the life of an unarmed American child.

The unnamed officer's initial claims that the car in which Edwards and his friends were driving had reversed and was somehow moving towards him in an "aggressive manner" were publicly, and to the Balch Springs PD's credit, quickly dismissed as bogus.

As Liam Stack and Christine Hauser reported in the New York Times yesterday, Balch Springs PD police chief Jonathan Haber announced that a review of video evidence showed that the car in which Edwards and his friends were driving was moving away from officer Oliver when he fired the fatal shots - not towards him.

Sound familiar? It should.

Remember back in July of 2015 when Seneca (South Carolina) PD lieutenant Mark Tiller shot and killed 19-year-old Zachary Hammond in the parking lot of a local Hardee's after the kid tried to drive away in the wake of a buy and bust operation?

19-year-old Zachary Hammond 
Hammond's 23-year-old date had unknowingly sold a small bag of weed to an undercover cop, when Lt. Tiller ran up to the vehicle with his pistol drawn, the poor kid panicked and tried to drive away.

Tiller fatally shot Hammond in the back and in the side, claiming he'd been forced to kill Hammond in self-defense because he feared the scared 19-year-old was going to run him over.

But a 42-second clip of police dashboard video of the incident showed that Hammond's vehicle was not only slowly trying to drive away, Tiller actually made multiple efforts to put himself in front of the vehicle.

Watch it for yourself, does that look like Hammond is purposefully trying to run Tiller over?

I'm not saying it was right for Hammond to try and flee, but neither was Tiller's decision to shoot and kill a scared kid who obviously terrified of being busted with weed in the car - he didn't deserve to be shot for that.

Investigators eventually ruled that Tiller had acted in self defense and he faced no charges.

The very same week that Hammond was shot in South Carolina back in July of 2015, the world was reacting in horror to the video footage of former University of Cincinnati campus police officer Ray Tensing shooting unarmed motorist Samuel Dubose in the head at point blank range while the motorist had his hands in the air.

Tensing, who was famously wearing a black t-shirt with a Confederate battle flag on it under his uniform when he pulled Dubose over for a missing license plate, initially told investigators that he'd been forced to shoot Dubose because the driver was dragging him along with his car.

But body-cam footage showed that the only reason that Dubose's car was moving was because Tensing had inexplicably shot the man in the head, forcing Dubose to slump forward and hit the accelerator.
Balch Springs PD officer Roy Oliver
While nothing can be done to bring back the victims of these flagrant and totally unjustified uses of deadly force, the rapidly expanding use of video technology on police vehicle dashboards and on the officers themselves is slowly starting to shed light on the propensity of some members of law enforcement to try and shield wrongdoing behind false allegations that a driver was trying to use a car to hurt or kill them.

The speed with which Balch Springs PD chief Jonathan Haber has moved to expose Roy Oliver's lies and fire him from the force is a clear indicator that, to a degree, technology is helping to pierce the Blue Wall of Silence that has shielded some members of law enforcement from facing responsibility for their actions.

But it's not just technology in this case.

After the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and so many other young unarmed Americans, there's also a growing recognition taking place.

Not just amongst the families of the victims, but also amongst law enforcement professionals, judges, local and city officials and the public at large that something is dangerously wrong with the way that some cops interact with young men.

But in the case of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, it's also the character of the young man himself that's led to the swift removal of Roy Oliver from the force for his actions last Saturday night.

The Mesquite High School body and the Texas community in which he and his family lived has been devastated by his death.

This is a kid who was a straight A student with an excellent GPA, and a great personality who was also a gifted student-athlete who was just getting ready to start a new football season and an exciting new chapter in his life.

This was a kid who'd left an impact on people he knew, including the Mesquite HS football coach who said of Edwards:

"You create a checklist of everything you would want in a player, a son, a teammate, a friend and Jordan had all that. He was that kid." 

There must be consequences for taking that away without just cause or reason, but as the Edwards' family attorney Lee Merritt said in response to the news of Oliver being fired, that's not enough.

The road to justice for Jordan Edwards, his family, his friends and his community is going to be a long one, and there won't be any help from Jeff Sessions' Department of Justice - so it's going to be up to the local and state courts to hold Oliver accountable for his actions.

In the meantime, instead of a high school freshman roster, Jordan Edwards joins the tragic list of the The Counted in America.

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