The chief of police in Balch Springs, Texas, said Sunday that one of his officers shot into a car full of teenagers because the vehicle had moved toward police officers "in an aggressive manner." But by Monday, he had to walk back that story.
The Balch Springs police officer open fired on the teens as their vehicle drove away, Chief Jonathan Haber said in a news conference, according to the Washington Post.
The shooting, which occurred Saturday night in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, killed 15-year-old high school freshman and honor roll student Jordan Edwards, a family lawyer told the Dallas Morning News. Edwards, who is black, was leaving a party with his 16-year-old brother and three other teenaged friends when they heard gunshots. Officers claimed they were responding to a call of "drunk teens."
Haber has not said whether any of the teens in the vehicle were armed. But he initially released a statement that said the teens' vehicle was "backing down the street" in a manner that was threatening to officers, seemingly blaming the teens for the officer's use of force.
"I unintentionally (was) incorrect when I said the vehicle was backing down the road ... in fact I can tell you that I do have questions in relation to my observation (of) the video," Haber said, according to the Post. "After reviewing the video, I don't believe that (the shooting) met our core values."
The chief also declined to release said video footage publicly while the shooting was being investigated. Before Monday's press conference, Haber had offered his condolences to Edwards' family, the Morning News reported.
"On behalf of the entire Balch Springs Police Department, and the city of Balch Springs we express our deep, sincere condolences to the family," Haber said on Sunday. "We will continue to reach out to the parents and keep them informed as we move forward from this point."
A criminal investigation is underway by the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and the Dallas County Sheriff's Department — but the Edwards family has already called for the yet-to-be named officer to be arrested and charged.
Lee Merritt, the family attorney, said the dead teen's parents want the officer identified and video of the shooting released. Merritt addressed members of local media outlets on Monday.
"We are declaring war on bad policing. This has happened far too often," he said, according to the Post. "We are tired of making the same rhetorical demands, of having the same hashtags; our community is fed up with the same tired excuses, once again offered by Balch Springs Police Department yesterday, that this was somehow the fault of the victims — teenage kids with no criminal records, with no motive to attempt to hurt anyone, with no evidence that they ever attempted to hurt anyone."
The Edwards family attorney also tweeted about the shooting on Sunday.
According to the Morning News, Merritt said Edwards and his friends had not been drinking and were not the teens police had been called about. None of the teens face any charges, the attorney said.
The boys left the party because they'd heard that police were on their way, Merritt said, according to the Post. When they got to their car, which was parked outside, they saw flashlights and heard gunshots. Someone yelled profanities as they got in the car, Merritt said. Shortly thereafter, they were fired upon.
Merritt said the teens fled for a block before they realized that Edwards had smoke coming from his head, at which point his older brother pulled the car over and flagged down a police cruiser for help.
"They're never going to be the same," Merritt said, according to the Post. "These kids are never going to be the same."
Merritt also represents the black Fort Worth mother who, in December, was forced to the ground by an officer after she had called police to report a white neighbor who allegedly assaulted her 7-year-old son. Video from the woman's arrest went viral.
Edwards' shooting is the second incident in recent months to raise questions of racial insensitivity and excessive force in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
May 1, 2017, 7:02 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.