Former Police Officer Roy Oliver was found guilty of murder in the 2017 death of Jordan Edwards, an unarmed 15-year-old black teen whose death garnered attention nationwide attention as part of the debate on the use of force by law enforcement, particularly when the target is young black males.
Oliver was a former member of the Balch Springs Police Department, who, on the night of April 29, 2017, fired his rifle at the vehicle of teenagers that was driving away from him, killing Edwards. Edwards’ brother, Vidal Allen, was driving, and Jordan was in the passenger seat. Oliver was arrested and charged with murder on May 5, 2017.
“This was a long-fought battle,” Daryl Washington, one of the lawyers for the Edwards family told the Associated Press.
One definitive reason for the return of a guilty verdict can be attributed to the use of body cameras by Oliver and his partner, Officer Tyler Gross. The use of such cameras is part of a nationwide debate regarding the item being worn by all law enforcement officers, sparked by the 2014 shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown, like Edwards, was a black, unarmed teenager, whose murder brought out massive protests and was a catalyst for the continued vigilance paid to similar cases.
The footage quickly debunked Oliver’s original story that the car was moving toward himself and he was acting in self-defense, and led to him being fired and then charged with the murder within the week. Gross eventually testified against his partner during the trial, saying he never felt that he was in danger that night.
This same footage was central to the trial, according to reports by the Texas Tribune, allowing jurors to see the exact events of the night and after 13 hours of deliberation, convict a law enforcement officer in Texas of murder for the first time in 47 years.
The Texas Tribune also revealed that between 2010 and 2015, of the 880 officers involved in shootings in Texas, only a quarter were disciplined by their departments, with 10 firings and 14 suspensions. Marking Oliver’s murder conviction as a particularly rare occurrence.
Oliver was acquitted on two charges of aggravated assault and assault with a deadly weapon.
Oliver joined the Balch Springs Police Department in 2011. Associated Press records reveal that Oliver was briefly suspended in 2013 for his conduct during an incident at the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, which required him to take anger management classes.
Roy Oliver’s Sentencing will be forthcoming. Edwards’ family, friends, and teachers will provide testimony to the judge before the sentencing period, according to reports from the Star-Telegram. Oliver could face up to life in prison.