DALLAS – A former Dallas-area police officer was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday night in the on duty murder of a black teenager, reported USA Today.
Former Balch Springs Officer Roy Oliver, 38, was convicted of fatally shooting Jordan Edwards, 15, after responding to the party in Balch Springs on April 29, 2017. Edwards was in a vehicle that was leaving the party when Oliver fired his patrol rifle five times into the car, striking Edwards in the head, according to testimony at trial. (Note: USA Today reported the shots were fired with an AK-15, which is an actual rifle. LET did not feel it was appropriate to contact Balch Springs P.D. with such a trivial question at this time. Therefore, we assume it was an AR-15 vs. AK-15, but are not certain.)
The jury deliberated for more than five hours, starting at about 4 p.m. Wednesday after an emotional two days of testimony during the punishment phase of the trial.
The jury found Oliver guilty of murder Tuesday. It was the first murder conviction of police officer in Dallas County since 1973.
When the verdict was read Tuesday, gasps echoed around the courtroom, according to the Associated Press. Edwards’s relatives sobbed and hugged prosecutors, waved their hands in the air and proclaimed “Thank you, Jesus!”
“I just want to say I’m happy, very happy,” Edwards father, Odell Edwards, said outside the courtroom. He said it had “been a long time” since he felt that way.
Oliver testified that he shot at the car because he feared his partner, Officer Tyler Gross, was in danger. Body camera footage showed the car was moving away from the officers, and Gross testified that he wasn’t in fear for his safety.
In the punishment phase, Edwards family and supporters testified Tuesday that he was a good kid with a bright future.
Jeff Fleener, Edwards’ football coach at Mesquite High School, broke down on the stand as he described how Edwards’ football locker has gone untouched since his death.
On Wednesday, Oliver’s mother and wife testified in the case, describing Oliver as a loving father of young boy with autism.
“Consider his son,” Oliver’s mother, Linda Oliver, pleaded to the jury, asking for the minimum sentence of five years in prison.
In addition to the 15-year prison sentence, Oliver was fined $10,000, reported ABC News.
Speaking with reporters at a press conference late Wednesday, the teen’s stepmother, Charmaine Edwards, said she had hoped for a sentence of “25 to 30 [years] or more.”
“We’re thankful for the verdict that we received, although we wanted more years,” she said. “This is a start for us, and we can get some kind of closure. So we’re thankful. He actually can see life again after 15 years. And that’s not enough because Jordan can’t see life again.”
Oliver, who joined the force in 2011, will be eligible for parole after seven-and-a-half years in prison.
Daryl Washington, an attorney representing the Edwards family, celebrated the conviction and said he hoped it would bring on a sense of closure.
“The Dallas DA’s office did something that has not been done around this country,” Washington said at the press conference. “They had the courage to take on the bad police officer, and, because of that, that in itself is a victory.
“We believe that little boys and little girls are going to be able to go to teenage parties and feel like if they’re in danger they can go to police officers and not run away from police officers.”
He said he’d also hoped for a harsher punishment, but that convictions in such cases are rare and should be celebrated.
Oliver’s attorney said he plans to file an appeal, citing multiple errors within the trial.
“This evening we gave notice of appeal. We want to appeal the jury’s verdict at both the guilt, innocence and punishment phase of the trial,” attorney Bob Gill said Wednesday. “We believe that there are some errors made during the trial that are significant errors and need to be explored on appeal.”