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Former Balch Springs, Texas, Officer Found Guilty of Murder of Black Teen

by Kevin Bliss

Former Balch Springs, Texas, police officer Roy Oliver was recently found guilty of murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The outcome of this case is notable not only because Oliver is a white officer who responded to a call with his partner in suburban Dallas where he fatally shot black 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, reigniting concerns about racism and brutality, but also because this was only the second officer of Dallas County to be convicted of murder in connection with a civilian’s death since 2005.

According to trial testimony, Oliver and his partner Tyler Gross had broken up a large house party after a report of underage drinking. No alcohol was found at the home, and the mood was said to cordial between the officers and the teens. Then shots rang out from a nearby parking area, now believed to have been an unrelated incident. Bodycam footage shows chaos ensued at the party. Teens went running in every direction. Officer Gross stopped one vehicle of teens from leaving and was attempting to stop a second, which held Edwards and others. Oliver ran to his vehicle to retrieve his service rifle.

Oliver stated that upon returning that he had seen Gross attempting to stop the vehicle and called the plate number in on his radio. He felt that his partner had “keyed in on something.”

When the vehicle continued on toward Gross, he feared for his partner’s life and shot into the vehicle five times, instantly killing Edwards. Gross testified that he never felt like the vehicle was trying to hit him.

Experts on both sides saw Oliver’s use of force differently. While Harris County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Coons, testifying for the defense, stated that the decision to shoot “at the time was reasonable,” FBI agent Phillip Hayden, for the prosecution, said Oliver never had enough time to properly assess the risk and violated department policy.

While Edwards’ family and friends filled the courtroom, there was no similar showing of support from Oliver’s fellow officers, despite his union’s social media post calling for such.

After 13 hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty. Bowling Green State University Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Philip Stinson said that in order for the officer to be convicted of an on-duty shooting, the facts had to have been extreme, such as shooting into a car full of teens as it slowly drove away. 



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