Yesterday former Balch Springs policeman Roy Oliver was found guilty of murder and not guilty of aggravated assault in the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. The April 2017 shooting in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs, Texas made national headlines.
At the time, our coverage of the incident was rife with skepticism at the idea that any justice would come for Jordan Edwards’ family. Today I stand corrected, contently so. Edwards was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his brother and also occupied by two friends on the night of his death.
Officer Oliver argued that he fired into the vehicle because he believed it was going to hit his partner, Officer Tyler Gross. However, his partner did not fire into the vehicle. Jordan Edwards was shot in the head and died instantly.
A long time ago, I reported on the Benton Harbor Riot of 2003. It was set off by the police-involved killing of a black motorcyclist. It was a small piece, about 300 words written in a newsletter for EURweb. But it is one of my earliest professional memories of reporting police brutality and excessive force.
Body camera footage played for jurors showed how quickly the police response escalated the night Jordan was killed. Within minutes, Oliver went from joking with teenagers to running down a street pointing a gun.
Jubilation filled the corridor outside the courtroom as the Edwards family and friends exited following the verdict.
The utter, joyful disbelief at a guilty verdict against a former police officer in the killing of a black man is apropos, indeed. This is the first time that I’ve ever witnessed a police officer convicted of murder in the killing of an unarmed, innocent African-American. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first national occurrence since the Reconstruction Era.
“I just want to say I’m happy, very happy,” Odell Edwards told reporters after the verdict. “It’s been a long time, hard year. Just really happy.”
“It’s about Tamir Rice. It’s about Walter Scott. It’s about Alton Sterling,” said attorney Daryl Washington. “It’s about every African-American, unarmed African-American, who has been killed and who has not gotten justice.”
The body cam footage from Balch Springs police officer Tyler Gross on the night Mesquite teen Jordan Edwards was shot and killed. Subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/user/tdmnvid?sub_confirmation=1 Watch more videos like this https://www.youtube.com/user/tdmnvid Learn More: Website: http://www.dallasnews.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/search?q=the%20dallas%20morning%20news&src=tyah Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dallasmorningnews/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
“We’re just happy here in Dallas, Texas, that Roy Oliver is going to have to do his time for taking Jordan’s life,” Washington said.
Both of Jordan’s parents embraced lead prosecutor Michael Snipes, who shed tears of his own after the verdict was read.
Oliver was charged with murder and four counts of aggravated assault by a public servant for the April 2017 on-duty shooting. He was on trial for murder and two of the assault charges.
Jurors had the option of finding Oliver guilty of manslaughter, a felony that carries a lesser punishment, up to 20 years compared with up to life in prison for murder and aggravated assault.
The murder conviction from a jury of Oliver’s peers is a direct affront to historical precedent, and I’m here for anything that disrupts centuries of racism in favor of trigger-happy cops.
Prosecutors are normally so pro-police that it disrupts justice. However, it appears as if the system did work this time around. Is this the beginning of a national wave of conscience and common sense in law enforcement? Though highly unlikely, only time will tell.