The father of Jordan Edwards, the 15-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a Texas police officer last month, has filed a lawsuit alleging that excessive force from a poorly-trained officer with a “violent temper” led to his son’s death.
Police officials say Roy Oliver, then a Balch Springs officer, killed Jordan as the teen rode in a car with his stepbrother and brother on April 29, after leaving a house party.
Oliver was fired on May 2 and prosecutors charged him with first degree murder three days later. He turned himself in and remains free on a $300,000 bond.
The suit, filed in federal court in Dallas, alleges that the City of Balch Springs, its city council, mayor and police chief “failed to properly train, supervise, screen (and) discipline” officers who “are known, or who should have been known, to engage in the use of excessive force.”
And Oliver, a 6-year veteran, had a “reputation for having a short fuse,” according to the suit, which cited Oliver’s disciplinary record.
“Oliver’s violent temper, a fact defendant City of Balch Springs was aware of or should have been aware of, led to the wrongful death of Edwards,” the lawsuit said.
The legal filing names Oliver, the city of Balch Springs and its police force as defendants and seeks unspecified damages.
City Manager Susan Cluse declined to comment. The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, Mayor Carrie Marshall and Oliver’s attorney couldn’t be reached.
Suit: Oliver ‘began shooting into vehicle’ as it drove away
On April 29, Jordan had attended a private party with his two brothers and two friends. Jordan did not drink while at the party, the lawsuit said. He and the group were outside when someone in the crowd announced that police had been dispatched. They headed to their car.
Around 11:00 p.m., Oliver and another officer responded to the home after reports of underage drinking. The officers were in the residence searching for the homeowner when they heard what they thought were gunshots, police said.
One officer went to the area where he heard the gunshots, and Oliver “went to his squad car and retrieved his patrol rifle,” according to an arrest warrant issued by the Dallas County Sherriff’s Office.
At some point, Jordan’s stepbrother heard what he thought were gunshots as he tried to drive off, the suit said.
The arrest warrant said the other officer with Oliver saw a Chevrolet Impala reversing and repeatedly ordered it to stop.
The officer approached the vehicle from the passenger side, with his weapon drawn.
The vehicle stopped, then slowly moved forward as the officer punched the passenger door window, breaking it, the arrest warrant said.
Oliver, who was behind the officer, “discharged multiple rounds from his patrol rifle as the vehicle drove past him,” the arrest warrant said.
The lawsuit alleges that as Jordan’s step brother pulled forward ahead of the officers, he heard someone order him the stop, shouting an expletive. But before he could react, Oliver “began shooting into the vehicle with a rifle as they attempted to drive away,” the suit said.
The suit alleges that Oliver “had no probable cause” to believe Jordan was committing a crime, and neither the teenager nor his group posed a threat to officers’ safety.
Suit: Jordan’s stepbrother handcuffed after shooting
One bullet struck Jordan in the head, throwing him to his left side on his stepbrother’s shoulder, the suit said.
Fearing for their lives, Jordan’s stepbrother continued driving until he was surrounded by police. Jordan’s stepbrother was “grabbed, handcuffed” and put in the patrol car “despite not committing a crime,” the suit said.
At one point, the suit alleges that one unidentified officer told the stepbrother “this n***** doesn’t know his fucking left from his right,” after he inadvertently stepped left instead of right when he got out of the car.
Dallas civil rights attorney Daryl K. Washington, one of the attorneys who filed the suit, said the encounter illustrates how police treated the teenagers.
The suit also alleges that a Balch Springs police officer at the scene of the shooting attempted to cover up for Oliver.
Washington said he does not plan to pursue racial discrimination claims but hopes body cam footage from every officer on scene that night might help the family build its case.
Jordan died from a fatal gunshot wound to the head, the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office said. His death has been ruled a homicide.
Suit: Officer not fired despite ‘multiple violations’
Last week, Balch Springs police chief Jonathan Haber admitted he “misspoke” when he initially said the car Jordan was riding in was moving “aggressively” towards police — leading one officer to fire his rifle into the car. He said body camera footage showed the car was driving forward, away from the officers — not reversing towards them.
He said Oliver’s actions then “did not meet our core values.”
Edwards’ attorneys argue that “despite Defendant Oliver’s conduct prior to Edwards’ death, he remained a Balch Springs Police officer and was not terminated despite his conduct and multiple violations of departmental policies.”
The Dallas County district attorney’s office had filed a complaint over his “aggressive behavior” and suspension in a prior drunken driving case, according to the court filing.
The lawsuit also cites a reprimand against Oliver for being “disrespectful to a civilian on a call.” Oliver was involved in an April 16 traffic accident while off duty. The other driver said Oliver pulled his hand gun on her and did not identify himself as a police officer, according to the suit.
On Saturday, family and friends gathered for Jordan’s funeral at Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church.
He was remembered as a standout student-athlete at Mesquite High School, near Dallas.