Mesquite, Texas isn’t necessarily the first community one would pick out on a map as a candidate for racial violence. The Dallas suburb is the 20th largest city in the Lone Star State and has generally copacetic demographics; its residents are roughly 60 percent white, 30 percent Hispanic and 20 percent African American. As you can tell from those numbers, a significant group of the Mesquite population identifies itself with more than one race, which would seem to indicate a forward-thinking community.
And so it was, in large part, until April 29, when a white police officer shot dead a black teenager who was leaving a house party. The teen and his friends were unarmed, and he just so happened to be a Mesquite football player.
As chronicled in this excellent feature from the Los Angeles Times, Jordan Edwards was 15 years old when he died. He was in a car being driven by his older brother Vidal, and their third brother, 17-year-old Kevin, was also in the car. They left a party in Balch Springs, which neighbors Mesquite, at 11 p.m. with the intention of driving straight home. Jordan never got there, because a bullet from a gun fired by Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver struck him in the head. He died in the car.
Unlike in some other areas, the response in Mesquite was swift. Oliver was fired from the Balch Springs police force within days. In July he was indicted for first degree murder. He could spend the rest of his life in jail.
That’s of little comfort for the Edwards family, nor his football family. The rising sophomore was expected to contribute on the Mesquite varsity football team in the 2017 season. Since Edwards’ death, the Mesquite football program has done all it can to offer solace to Edwards’ family, even while they search for answers themselves.
“Even if you’re aware of your surroundings, like Jordan was, it still might not matter, which is sad,” Mesquite football player Jaxon Turner told the Times. “He was a good kid who was going to be a good man.”
Among the new participants? Vidal Edwards, who turned from his first love of boxing to football as a way to honor his brother. He’s wearing his No. 11 jersey in his senior season.
Like many football teams, the Mesquite Skeeters pray in the locker room. Unlike some, their prayers are not for anything so trivial as a football outcome. They’re for resolution and a brighter future for their town, teammates and the one they lost whom they sometimes speak to above.
“It gives me peace a little bit; praying helps me cope,” Mesquite football player Ja’Darion Smith told the Times. “I just tell (Jordan Edwards) I love him.”