DALLAS – A former police officer in suburban Dallas was convicted of murder Tuesday for the April 2017 shooting of an unarmed black teenager as he left a house party, Fox News reported.
Balch Springs Police Department
Roy Oliver was fired from the Balch Springs Police Department days after the shooting of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Edwards was in the front passenger seat of a moving vehicle carrying five teens when Oliver opened fire.
The shooting launched the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs into a national conversation on issues of law enforcement and race.
Experts declared ahead of the trial that securing convictions against an officer was challenging, in part because criminal culpability in on-duty shootings is subjective and jurors are more inclined to believe police testimony.
The shooting occurred after Oliver and his partner, Tyler Gross, had broken up the house party following a report of underage drinking. Both officers were inside the residence when they heard gunfire outside and responded.
Investigators later determined the shots were fired near a nursing home in the area.
Oliver retrieved his rifle and went toward Gross, who was ordering the car carrying Edwards to stop.
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said at the time of Oliver’s termination that he “violated several departmental policies, although they were not enumerated.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office along with the DA’s Public Integrity Unit conducted the criminal investigation, which ultimately led to the indictment.
Oliver testified in his defense. He said he saw the car back up and stop for a second before moving forward and going toward Gross. Moreover, during his testimony, he told the jury the car was about to hit his partner. As a result, he said he felt he had no other option but to fire.
Testimony of Partner Officer
Gross, however, had a different perspective. He testified that he did not fear for his life and never felt the need to fire his weapon. He also said he didn’t feel like the car was trying to hit him.
Furthermore, prosecutors said Oliver fired after the car passed Gross.
Investigators also said no guns were found in the teens’ car.
The jury deliberated for about 12 hours over a period of two days before reaching its verdict, reported the Star-Telegram.
Father Speaks After Verdict
Odell Edwards, Jordan Edwards’ father, said his family is relieved and happy. “It’s been a long time, hard year and we’re just really happy,” he said, holding back tears. “We did it.”
The trial immediately moved into the penalty phase. The jury is listening to testimony from friends, family and teachers of Jordan before determining Oliver’s sentence.
— CBSDFW (@CBSDFW) August 28, 2018
Roy Oliver GUILTY ON MURDER, NOT GUILTY AGGRAVATED ASSAULT. Tears in court. One side Edwards family. The other side, Oliver family.
Punishment phase of trial begins immediately pic.twitter.com/ToXD0y4XV4
— Shaun Rabb (@shaunrabbfox4) August 28, 2018
Last LEO Conviction in Texas
Until Oliver’s conviction, it had been more than 40 years since an on-duty officer had been convicted of killing someone in a shooting in Texas.
Darrell Cain was convicted of murder in 1973 for killing Santos Rodriguez, 12. Cain, an officer in Dallas, held a gun to the boy’s head and on the second pull of the trigger, killed him. Rodriguez was handcuffed in a squad car.