A white former police officer was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday night after being convicted of murder a day earlier for killing an unarmed 15-year-old boy when he fired into a car packed with black teenagers leaving a house party in suburban Dallas.
Roy Oliver, who faced up to life in prison, was convicted Tuesday in the 2017 death of Jordan Edwards and the same jury handed down his punishment. He also was fined $10,000.
The verdict marked an extremely rare murder conviction for shootings involving on-duty police officers. His lawyers are expected to appeal.
Oliver was a police officer in the community of Balch Springs when he and his partner responded to reports of underage drinking at the party. Oliver fired into a car carrying Edwards and his friends, later saying he feared the vehicle was moving toward and endangering his partner . Edwards, who was in the front passenger seat, was shot.
The jury deliberated for hours before settling on a prison sentence. Earlier, they heard from Oliver’s mother, Linda, who said he was a good man and a devoted father and asked jurors for a five-year sentence, saying her young grandson needs his father’s support.
“He needs his father’s love. He needs his father’s income. He needs his father’s guidance,” she said.
Oliver’s wife also testified, saying in Spanish through an interpreter that she was concerned about their 3-year-old son, who is autistic. But the ex-officer’s half sister testified against him, saying she felt compelled to do so after listening to testimony during the trial and that she hoped he “gets what he deserves.”
That came a day after Edwards’ father, Odell Edwards, told jurors that his son always had a smile on his face and dreamed of playing football at Alabama.
Edwards’ stepmother, Charmaine Edwards, said Jordan’s death left a void in the family and nothing will make it whole again.
“And I’m forever grateful that y’all (saw) it in your hearts, to see that it was wrong. And I’m thankful,” she told jurors after they delivered the murder conviction.
Earlier Wednesday, Dallas County district attorney Faith Johnson said Oliver was a “killer in blue” and told jurors they could send a message that bad officers will not be tolerated.
Police initially said the vehicle backed up toward officers “in an aggressive manner,” but later admitted that body cam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached. Oliver’s partner told jurors he didn’t believe his life was ever in danger.
Investigators said no guns were found in the vehicle. Oliver was fired from the Balch Springs Police Department days after the shooting.
The jury, which featured two black members out of 12 jurors and two alternates, acquitted Oliver on two lesser charges of aggravated assault stemming from the shooting.
It’s extremely rare for police officers to be tried and convicted of murder for shootings that occurred while they are on duty. Only six non-federal police officers have been convicted of murder in such cases – and four of those convictions were overturned – since 2005, according to data compiled by criminologist and Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson.
Edwards’ father has also filed a civil lawsuit in connection to the shooting. The jury’s decision is not just about Jordan Edwards, but all other black men and women who have been killed and not received justice, said Daryl Washington, an attorney for the teenager’s father.