It’s not every day a police officer is found guilty of murder, especially when it comes to a white officer shooting an unarmed, black teen. But today, a jury found Roy Oliver guilty of the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
Edwards was killed by police officer Roy Oliver on Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Balch Springs, Texas. He was a passenger in a car leaving a house party when Oliver shot him in the head. At first, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said Oliver had fired into the car after it reversed “in an aggressive manner” toward officers. But body camera footage later contradicted this account, showing the car was actually moving forward and away from officers. Chief Haber later said he misspoke, and Oliver’s behavior “did not meet our core values.”
The trial began on August 16 and the jury, made up of five white women, two black women, three Hispanic women and two white men, deliberated for 12 hours over a period of two days, according to KERA News.
Oliver told the courtroom that shooting into the car was his only option. He was inside the house where the party was thrown when he heard what sounded like gunshots coming from outside and ran to his patrol car to get his gun. Later, it was discovered that the gunshots were fired at a nursing home nearby.
When Oliver saw the car Edwards and his friends were in, he said he feared the car was going to run over his then partner, Officer Tyler Gross. Gross later testified against Oliver, saying that he never feared for his life. According to the Star-Telegram, several witnesses agreed with Gross and said there was no justification for Oliver’s use of force.
Days after the shooting, Oliver was fired. In July 2017, he was indicted for first-degree murder.
After Edwards’ death, his story ignited thousands of social media users to come to his defense, including prominent social justice activists. And today, those same users are celebrating the bittersweet occasion.
The unusual outcome of this case isn’t lost on the supporters of Edwards and his family. An investigation by the Texas Tribune revealed that of the 880 Texas officers involved in shootings between 2010 and 2015, only 25 were disciplined by their departments — ten were fired, 14 were suspended and just one was given a written reprimand. Only seven were indicted on a criminal charge; none of the chargers were for murder and none have led to jail time.