jordan edwards roy oliver

The murder of Jordan Edwards by former Balch Springs, TX officer Roy Oliver is another show of young black life meaning nothing to some.

Jordan Edwards.

Memorize it and continue to say his name. A Texas native, on April 29 the 15-year-old honor roll student was callously shot in the head by police, joining a contentious list of over 330 people killed by law enforcement this year alone.

A freshman at Mesquite High School, as a student Edwards excelled in school and on the football field, the kind that principal Kevin Samples describe “As a teacher, he’s the kid you wanted in your class. As an adult, he was the kid who brought encouragement with his joy. He led his peers with character and finesses, and his presence is greatly missed.”

According to his parents the well-mannered teen had never caused any major problems, one of the reasons they’d given him permission to attend a house party in Balch Springs, a Dallas suburb. He’d been asking for weeks and they’d relented on the condition that his 16-year-old stepbrother, Vidal Allen, accompany him.

It’s a decision Allen now regrets.

Following noise complaints and calls of “several underage kids walking around” authorities had arrived at the scene, finding no evidence of underage drinking they’d reportedly returned outside. where a car carrying five teens – including Edwards in the passenger seat – was leaving the party. From there the night turned deadly, as a Balch Springs officer used a rifle to shoot at the fleeing vehicle, striking Edwards in the back of the head.

According to Allen they’d heard the shots as well, causing the teens to pile into the car in attempt to escape the mayhem. Unable to move forward without striking police, as he reversed the car was struck three times, fatally injuring his brother in the process.

At the heart of the tragedy is officer Roy Oliver, who’d pulled out the oft-used “I feared for my life” excuse when alleging that the car had been “backing up in an aggressive manner.” It’s a tactic that Cheryl Dorsey, former LAPD sergeant, suggests is used to escape accountability.

Candidly she explained, “Do a lot of police feel that their lives are threatened? It’s doubtful. I think it’s what’s put forward to justify shootings.”

There were problems with Oliver’s account however, namely, it wasn’t true. After initially labeling Edwards’ death the result of an “unknown altercation” with Balch Springs police, body-cam footage assisted in revealing the truth; causing Police Chief Jonathan Haber to assess that officers “did not meet our core values.”

In the video, Allen is seen moving the car away from authorities, contradicting Oliver’s version of events and making it harder to claim he acted – by shooting at five teens – under duress. Acting swiftly the department relieved the disgraced officer of his duties, firing him for a “violation of departmental policies.” Now he stands on the other side of the justice system, facing murder charges as the Edwards family is left to pick up the shattered pieces.

“Do a lot of police feel that their lives are threatened? It’s doubtful. I think it’s what’s put forward to justify shootings.”

They recently laid their son to rest, bringing hundreds – in a crowd that even included gospel great Kirk Franklin – out for a celebration of his life. A bittersweet reminder that the lives of black and brown youth, in particular our boys, are still at the mercy of a society that struggles to view them as children.

It’s an uphill battle, made harder by those intent on pretending that societal bias no longer exists. But in study after study, including a 2014 finding from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it’s proven that minority children are dehumanized by authorities at an alarming rate; making them more vulnerable to violence at the hands of those charged with protecting them.

According to Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, who helped write the study, “Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent.”

An assumption of innocence: a benefit of the doubt not extended to those like Tamir Rice. Or Trayvon Martin. Or Emmett Till. Or the countless other children of color that were taken too soon.

A six year veteran, Oliver had been placed on probation just four years earlier in relation to misconduct, now the department is left to explain whether he was fit to be in the field that day. In addition to murder charges the former officer was also slapped with a lawsuit that reads “Defendant 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.”

Still reeling from the loss of Jordan, the Edwards family issued a statement that explained “Not only have Jordan’s brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder. Their young lives will forever be altered. No one, let alone young children, should witness such horrific, unexplainable, violence.”

Adding, “We do not support nor do we condone any violence or threats made against the Balch Springs Police Department or any other law enforcement agencies. What we desire only second to having our beloved Jordan back, is JUSTICE FOR JORDAN.”

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