The prosecutor’s office investigating the death of a black teenager who was shot by a Dallas-area police officer had once filed a complaint over that officer’s aggressive behavior, according to records obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
Personnel records from the Balch Springs Police Department show former officer Roy Oliver was suspended for 16 hours in December 2013 after the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office filed a complaint about his conduct when he was serving as a witness in a drunken-driving case. That office is now investigating the shooting Saturday night in which Oliver, who is white, fired a rifle at a car full of teenagers leaving a party, striking and killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
Messages left with a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, a police spokesman and a lawyer for Oliver were not immediately returned Thursday.
The personnel records also included periodic evaluations that noted at least one instance when Oliver was reprimanded for being “disrespectful to a civilian on a call.” That evaluation, dated January 27, 2017, called the reprimand an isolated incident and urged Oliver to be mindful of his leadership role in the department.
The complaint from the prosecutor’s office said the office had a hard time getting Oliver to attend the trial, he was angry he had to be there, he used vulgar language that caused an assistant district attorney to send a female intern out of the room, and he used profanity during his testimony.
“In an email from one of the prosecutors he states you were a ‘scary person to have in our workroom,’ ” then-Balch Springs Police Chief Ed Morris wrote in the suspension findings.
Oliver joined the Balch Springs department in 2011 after being an officer with the Dalworthington Gardens Police Department for almost a year. A statement from Dalworthington Gardens officials late Wednesday included some details of that and previous intermittent employment as a dispatcher and public works employee between 1999 and 2004.
The statement said he received an award for “meritorious conduct” as a dispatcher and there were no documented complaints or disciplinary action in either his work as a public safety officer or dispatcher. Between his employment as a dispatcher and officer in the Dallas suburb, he was in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of sergeant while serving two tours in Iraq and earning various commendations. He served for two years in the Texas National Guard reserves through 2012.
After the Dallas County Attorney’s Office complained about Oliver’s behavior, Morris suspended the officer for 16 hours, which Oliver completed by forfeiting two sick days. Oliver also was ordered to take training courses in anger management and courtroom demeanor and testimony.
Heath Harris, the former first assistant district attorney under Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, said he did not remember the incident or which of the many courts might have been involved. He said he did not believe it would impact the office’s ability to investigate the shooting.
“I don’t think that it will impact this investigation at all, other than the fact that it’s something that clearly the defense will try to use,” Harris said. “But DA (Faith) Johnson has already stated that the investigation by the public integrity unit will be independent and based solely on the facts of the shooting.”
Racial slur reported
Edwards and his two brothers and two other teenagers were driving away from an unruly house party in Balch Springs late Saturday night when Oliver opened fire on their vehicle with a rifle. The bullets shattered the front passenger-side window and struck Edwards. Oliver was fired Tuesday for violating department policies.
It took a few moments for Edwards’ 16-year-old brother, who was driving, and other passengers to notice that he was slumped over in his seat. His brother pulled over and tried to call for help.
Police ordered him to step out of the car and back away. As he moved, he heard someone call him a racial slur, according to family lawyers Jasmine Crockett and Lee Merritt.
Top Texas Democrats called on Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, to work to discourage shootings by police. Several such proposals have stalled in the Legislature.
Democrats took issue with Abbott’s muted response to Edward’s death, especially given his more spirited response to subsequent stabbings at the University of Texas and the shooting of a Dallas paramedic.
“This is not a Dallas problem, this is not a Balch Springs problem,” state Rep. Helen Giddings, a Democrat from Dallas, said at a news conference in Austin. “It is a dangerous disease that is threatening young black males, most of whom are unarmed.”
Abbott responded to The Associated Press with a brief statement saying his “heart goes out to the Edwards family during this incredibly difficult time.” His statement added, “No parent should ever have to experience the pain of losing a child, and the Edwards family deserves a fair and full investigation into this tragedy.”
About 200 people attended a vigil in Balch Springs on Thursday night to honor the teen’s memory and protest his death.