BALCH SPRINGS, Texas - A federal magistrate judge is recommending that the city of Balch Springs be removed from a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Jordan Edwards.
The lawsuit says former officer Roy Oliver was not trained and supervised properly on the use of force, including deadly force, and that the city has either policies or customs in place that created an atmosphere for the deadly force used when Edwards was shot and killed by Oliver while a passenger in a car on April 27, 2017.
The magistrate, whose recommendations will ultimately go to the chief judge to decide, wrote the plaintiffs’ facts did not match the allegations made against the city.
She is recommending Balch Springs be dismissed from the lawsuit, and that the Edwards’ attorneys not be able to bring any other action against Balch Springs.
Edwards’ death by a Balch Springs police officer set in motion criminal and civil actions: The officer, Roy Oliver, is serving 15 years in prison, and the Edwards family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.
The city of Balch Springs filed motions seeking to be removed from the lawsuit, and Judge Rebecca Rutherford agreed, recommending "the district court should grant...the city of Balch Springs motion to dismiss and dismiss plaintiffs' claims...with prejudice."
Meaning they cannot ever hold the city of Balch Springs liable for Edwards’ death, only Oliver.
“You can imagine as how the family has now reacted to this news, most people have reacted to this news the same way,” said Daryl K. Washington, who is the attorney for the Edwards family. “How do you separate the city of Balch Springs from Roy Oliver?"
Former federal prosecutor Aaron Wiley, who is not involved in this case, gave some insight into the judge’s decision.
“The issue is the facts don’t marry the administration, i.e., the mayor, the police chief, and the city council all knew about and orchestrated or put forward a pattern of conduct that fell down to the officers,” Wiley said.
Washington argues that Balch Springs is liable because its officers, including Oliver, were not trained appropriately on use of force, and the department and the city are at fault for not disciplining and supervising officers properly on use of force.
In her opinion, Rutherford writes the court finds that "plaintiffs have not sufficiently alleged the city had an unconstitutional policy or custom to state a claim for municipal liability."
Retired federal Judge Joe Kendall also spoke about the judge’s recommendations.
“The fact that in this day and time, in a post-Ferguson, post-Black Lives Matter, for a police department to not have any policy whatsoever on the use of deadly force is outrageous,” Kendall said. “In fact, one might argue in and of itself that single fact that they don’t have a deadly force policy demonstrates a custom or practice of indifference to the constitutional rights of the citizenry.”
Edwards' attorney has 14 days to object to the recommendations before they go to Chief Judge Barbara Lynn.
“We just hope the right thing will be done about this,” Washington said.
Judge Lynn will ultimately make the decision.
Though typically, a magistrate’s recommendations can tip the scales with a federal judge.
Whether the suit should go forward could ultimately be decided by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.