A white ex-police officer was convicted of murder Tuesday for fatally shooting an unarmed, Black 15-year-old boy while firing into a car packed with teenagers in suburban Dallas, marking a rare guilty verdict in a police shooting case. Dallas County jurors were not swayed by Roy Oliver’s claim that he feared for his partner’s life when he fired into the vehicle as it drove away from a large house party in Balch Springs. The gunfire killed Jordan Edwards, who was sitting in the front passenger seat.
Gasps echoed around the courtroom as the verdict was read. Edwards’ relatives sobbed and hugged prosecutors, and waved their hands in the air and proclaimed “Thank you, Jesus!” after the jury left. His father, Odell Edwards, briefly spoke outside the courtroom before heading back in to begin listening to the sentencing phase of the trial. He said he was thankful for the jury’s decision and felt like jumping for joy but was able to retrain himself.
“I just want to say I’m happy, very happy,” he said, adding that it’s “been a long time” since he felt that way.
Oliver and his partner were responding to a report of underage drinking at a house party when the shooting occurred in April 2017. Balch Springs police initially said the vehicle backed up toward officers “in an aggressive manner,” but police later said that bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached. Oliver testified during his trial that he opened fire after seeing the car move toward his partner. But his partner told jurors he didn’t fear for his life.
Experts say it’s extremely rare for police officers to be tried and convicted of murder for shootings that occurred while they were on duty. Not including Oliver, only five non-federal police officers had been convicted of murder — and four of those were overturned — since 2005, according to data compiled by criminologist and Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson.