Jordan Edwards’ “ginormous” smile, they said, could light up a room — even one as large as Friendship Baptist Church in Mesquite, where a community gathered to mourn a life just beginning to blossom.
About 800 people packed the church Saturday for a moving, spiritual celebration of a 15-year-old recalled as an ardent athlete and committed student, “with a humble and loving spirit.”
But more than anything, said Mesquite High Principal Kevin Samples, Jordan was a thoughtful, bright-eyed boy whom other kids admired “for all the right reasons.”
“As a teacher, he’s the kid you wanted in your class,” Samples said. “As an adult, he was the kid who demonstrated that America has a bright future. As a fellow human, he was a kid who brought encouragement with his joy. He led his peers with character and finesse, and his presence is greatly missed.”
In the latest police shooting to draw national attention, Jordan was killed by a Balch Springs police officer as he and his brothers left a party last weekend. That officer, Roy Oliver, was fired Tuesday and charged with murder Friday, a swift development that filled many in the crowd with cautious optimism.
“We have seen the scales of justice level out,” Friendship Baptist Pastor Terry M. Turner said. “This shows the importance of body cams on officers. … Just because we are black doesn’t mean we are wrong.”
The 2 1/2-hour, open-casket service was punctuated by rousing interludes from a swaying gospel choir that prompted clapping and raised hands among the rows packed with bow-tied children, teens in football jerseys and women in Sunday hats.
The crowd included Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, Balch Springs Mayor Carrie Marshall and Grammy-winning gospel singer Kirk Franklin.
A slideshow playing above the altar traced the trajectory of Jordan’s life — from an infant adorned with puffy angel wings to a grinning kid sprawled on the sofa to a freshman football player with dreams set on the University of Alabama.
Speakers offered comfort to Jordan’s family, including parents Odell and Charmaine and his biological mother, Shaunkeyia Stephens.
“Your loss is our loss,” said a representative from the family’s church, True Believers of Christ Community Church in Balch Springs. “We recognize the severity of your sorrow, and we share in your pain. But more than anything, we recognize that this loss is heaven’s gain.”
But the loss was especially evident when Jordan’s eldest brother, who was with him when he died, said, “I just knew it was time to give him to God,” and his classmates burst into tears.
Attendees heard from Mesquite High algebra teacher Anna Lee Polk, who said Jordan “exemplified love and hope”; from a Pee Wee football coach who described Jordan as “my role model”; and from Franklin, the gospel singer, who pledged to take Jordan’s football teammates to Six Flags for a day and to buy his siblings season passes.
Franklin urged Jordan’s classmates to not let the tragedy sap their optimism for life.
“You’re in a part of the movie that you don’t like,” Franklin said. “Don’t walk out before you get to the good part.”
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