A former Texas police officer faces a life sentence after his conviction for murder Tuesday in the shooting death of an unarmed 15-year-old black honor roll student, multiple media outlets report.
Former Balch Springs officer Roy Oliver fired five shots into a car, striking and killing Jordan Edwards as he and a group of teens were driving away from a party in April 2017, according to Dallas TV station WFAA. Oliver had claimed he fired the shots in order to stop the vehicle from running over his partner.
Earlier, both Oliver and his fellow officer, Tyler Gross, had playfully interacted with teens at the party after responding to neighbors’ complaints that high school students appeared to be drinking alcohol at the event, reports The Washington Post. But no alcohol was found, and conflict only arose after shots were overheard from a nearby parking lot, sending the revelers out into the residential street.
Testimony showed that Oliver went to the patrol car to retrieve his gun while Gross stopped one car as it was leaving, then attempted to stop another in which Edwards was a passenger, according to The Post. Oliver said he heard Gross reading the second vehicle’s license plate into a police radio, then Gross broke a window of the vehicle as he ordered the driver to stop.
Oliver approached and then fired five shots within one second at the vehicle, hitting Edwards in the head as Edwards advised his fellow passengers to “duck, get down,” The Post reports,
Jurors who deliberated for 14 hours rejected Oliver’s defense that he was protecting Gross, who said in court that he did not fear for his life nor feel the need to grab his own weapon, reports NBC News.
“I just wanted them to stop,” Gross testified, according to WFAA. “I was not in fear at that point.”
Defense attorney Jim Lane nonetheless argued during his closing argument that Oliver fired to defend his partner, reports The Post. “He wanted to be a protector,” Lane said.
In a tweet, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote: “This life should never have been lost.”
Oliver, who is white, also faced two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon but was found not guilty on those charges.
“I want to say I’m happy,” Jordan Edwards father, Odell Edwards, told the media after the verdict. “Very happy. It’s been a long time. It’s been a hard year.”
The Edwards family attorney, Daryl K. Washington, told reporters: “Odell and I were talking last night and one of the things that he said is that he doesn’t want another parent, another father, to go through what this family has had to deal with.”
“This case is not just about Jordan,” he said. “It’s about Tamir Rice. It’s about Walter Scott and Alton Sterling. It’s about every unarmed African American that has been killed and has not gotten justice.”
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Oliver faces a prison term of five years to life when sentenced, with the same jury that convicted him now hearing testimony to guide their sentencing recommendation to State District Judge Brandon Birmingham.
“He wanted to be great,” Jeffrey Fleener, the Mesquite High School football coach, testified on Tuesday, as he and several classmates described Edwards as a model student with a wide circle of friends, according to The Post. “It was a constant, daily thing,” he said.