Jordan Edwards, just 15, died under questionable circumstances Saturday night — shot by a police officer who used a rifle to shoot into a moving vehicle full of teenagers as they left a party in a working-class Dallas suburb. Jordan, a high school freshman and member of the football team, was sitting in the front seat, when a bullet exploded in his head, killing him while his two brothers and two friends looked on in horror. Police had been called to the house party after receiving reports of underage drinking. They claimed that they heard multiple gunshots from outside the residence that caused mass confusion and an understandable mass exodus from the premises.
Looking back, I suppose I could have suffered a similar fate, given the number of times I too attended similar soirees during my youth. And while the officer has since been fired, the teen’s murder becomes yet another unprovoked, unnecessary, and unmerited example of law enforcement exercising use of force resulting in the death of an innocent Black youth at the hands of one who, in accepting the job, had vowed to “protect and serve.”
While the Balch Springs Police Department former officer has allegedly claimed that he’ll appeal his firing, it’s unlikely he’ll be returned to the force, not only because his original statement contradicts the body-camera footage, but because he shot at a moving vehicle when neither his life, or that of his partner, appeared to be in jeopardy. Was race an issue in this shooting? It doesn’t appear to be. But the suburb cannot be described as serene as Balch Spring, a majority-minority city 15 miles east of downtown Dallas, reported more violent crime than Texas towns of similar size in 2015, according to crime data from the FBI.
We know about Black youth being killed by police. Tamir Rice in Cleveland was three years younger than Jordan. Ferguson’s Michael Brown was unarmed, as was Jordan. Walter L. Scott, like Jordan, was fleeing from police, although not in a car but on foot, in North Charleston, South Carolina when he was shot and killed. Laquan McDonald was killed by a Chicago police officer whose description of the incident, again like Jordan’s, did not jibe with dashcam video footage.
The lives of an entire family, a suburban high school, a close-knit football team and a multiracial community, have all been changed forever. One bad decision — one bullet fired — one young life snuffed out for no logical or apparent reason. We’ll probably hear about another town hall meeting focusing on race and the police. We’ll inevitably witness demands to change the way law enforcement is currently allowed to police our communities. We’ll soon see special reports on CNN or MSNBC showcasing protests in the streets headed by preachers, pontificators and groups like Black Lives Matter. But they won’t matter — not really. At least not to the loved ones of Jordan Edwards.
When Trayvon Martin died, I thought it was a horrendous fluke. I thought justice would prevail, that laws would be reviewed and that police tactics would be heavily scrutinized and drastically changed. But the legal slaughtering of Black youth, men and women has gone on and on.
Sure, we’ve had more than enough, but sometimes if feels like our lives, Black lives, simply do not matter. At least not enough to put an end to the madness. James Baldwin, decades ago, predicted “the fire next time.” I fear that his conclusion, words which I once considered unimaginable, may have been prophetic.