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"The Tragic Death of Jordan Edwards" puts the Real Sports stamp on a Balch Springs police crime


Reporter David Scott interviews the brothers of police shooting victim Jordan Edwards on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. HBO photo

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Heavily covered in D-FW, the Balch Springs police murder of a 15-year-old African-American student with honor roll grades and a budding high school football career gets national TV exposure Tuesday night (Oct. 23rd) as the lead story on HBO’s award-laden Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

“The Tragic Death of Jordan Edwards” (9 p.m. central time), reported by David Scott, indeed was just that. On the night of April 29, 2017 after a loud and crowded party was broken up by police, the kid nicknamed “Smiley” was shot while in a car being driven by his older brother, Vidal. They and the other young passengers were all unarmed. But officer Roy Oliver nonetheless fired away impulsively, ending a life that had barely gotten started. He was ultimately convicted or murder and is appealing his prison sentence.

This isn’t a story about sports, really. But Scott sets the stage by interviewing Mesquite Skeeters football coach Jeff Fleener, who “found himself doing more consoling than coaching” in the reporter’s words.

Scott covers all the particulars and has fresh interviews with Jordan’s parents, his two brothers and some of the youths who attended a house party at which a lone beer can was discovered inside. But when gunfire unrelated to the gathering broke out, Oliver eventually began shooting first before claiming that he and his partner that night, Tyler Gross, were in danger of being struck by the car Vidal was driving. Video evidence shows completely otherwise, and Scott’s report makes ample use of it. There’s also a heartrending still shot of Jordan’s bloodied dead body inside the auto that became his hearse.

Representatives of the Balch Springs police department declined to be interviewed by Scott, and the attorney representing the town, Joe Tooley, would have been wiser to also stay off camera. He comes off as cavalier and uncaring when Brown presses him on other previous signs and on-duty incidents indicating that Oliver might well be a trigger-happy cop.

“He had some flies on his background,” Tooley acknowledges.

“What do you mean by flies?” Brown asks.

“Well, he had some specks.”

“Specks. Red flags?”

“I don’t know if I would call them red flags or not. I see an officer who was working hard. And if you work hard, you will generate complaints as a police officer.”

Oliver, a combat veteran, seemingly put a bright red flag into play in 2013, two years after becoming a Balch Springs police officer. “I will never in my life be as good at anything else as I am at killing people,” he posted on his Facebook page.

“Well, that’s not good,” Tooley concedes. “Again, the Balch Springs Police Department was just not aware of that.”

“Shouldn’t they have been aware of that?” Scott asks.

“Well, I don’t know. They didn’t look into that.”

There was more than one tragedy that night. Jordan’s brother, Vidal, is left to blame himself for trying to safely drive away from the gunshots he heard that night before Oliver deemed it necessary to open fire with his semi-automatic rifle.

“We try to tell him that it’s not his fault,” Vidal’s mother, Charmaine, says. “But how he feels is how he feels.”


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