Odell Edwards held back his tears minutes after the ex-police officer who killed his teenage son was found guilty of murder.
“It’s been a long time, hard year and we’re just really happy,” he said.
Back in the courtroom on the sixth floor of the Frank Crowley Courts Building, family members and friends embraced each other.
“God is good, God is good,” one woman said from the hallway.
On Twitter, across the country, people who watched the trial since Aug. 16 let out a sigh of relief using the hashtag #JordanEdwards, the same hashtag they used after the 15-year-old’s death.
Gov. Greg Abbott also reacted to the verdict on Twitter saying, “This life should never have been taken.”
Daryl Washington, attorney for the Edwards family, said: “This case is not just about Jordan. It’s about Tamir Rice, it’s about Walter Scott, it’s about Alton Sterling, it’s about every African-American ... who has been killed and has not gotten justice.”
Sharon Watkins Jones of the ACLU of Texas said the community relies on police officers to keep its citizens safe and “to use their powers judiciously and fairly.”
“There is a long history in this country of failing to hold law enforcement responsible for even the gravest abuses of power,” she said. “The prosecution of Roy Oliver and today’s guilty verdict send a powerful message: Roy Oliver’s actions were murder, and he will be held accountable.”
The jury immediately jumped into the punishment phase of the trial.
They heard testimony from Edwards’ teachers at Mesquite High School, where he was a freshman.
From day one of the trial to Tuesday, there was one thing jurors heard over and over about Edwards: He was known for his smile.
“That smile engulfed everyone,” math teacher AnnaLee Polk testified.
She said Edwards was a leader in his classroom who was “actually enthusiastic” about learning math.
He helped his classmates from falling behind.
Odell Edwards took the stand about 6 p.m. and spoke about his family.
“We’re an outgoing, loving family,” he said. “Just like to have fun. ... I spend a lot of time with my kids. We play football. I try to keep up with them.”
He spoke slowly as he recalled the last moments with his sons — just after he granted them permission to drive to a house party.
“I said yes because I’ve never had issues” with them, he said. “They left, I told them I loved them like I always do.”
It was the last thing he told his son Jordan, he said.
After the boys left, he ate wings and watched TV. He was watching TV when his stepson, Vidal Allen, called him.
He was yelling and crying saying, “Dad, Jordan’s been shot by the police,” Edwards testified.
At first, he said he didn’t believe him. Then the phone disconnected because Allen was detained, Edwards said.
He drove all over Mesquite looking for his sons.
Since the shooting, Odell Edwards said he and Allen constantly blame themselves for what happened. His family hasn’t been the same.
Asked about a civil lawsuit filed by Oliver that referred to the teenagers as thugs who have guns, Odell Edwards said, “My kids ain’t nothing like that.”
“They’re not thugs,” he said. “They just like to have fun, go out, be kids. They don’t sag ... they don’t do that.”
Jurors will also hear testimony in Roy Oliver’s defense.
Oliver, 38, shot five times into a moving vehicle in which Edwards was a passenger on April 29, 2017.
At the time, Edwards, his brothers and a couple of friends were leaving a house party after Oliver and his partner, Officer Tyler Gross, were called to break it up.
A group of suspected gang members shot 12 times into the air from a nearby parking lot — across the road from the party and unrelated to it.
As Gross and Oliver went to investigate, they tried stopping the car.
Oliver said he believed the car was about to run over Gross, so he opened fire on the passenger side. He shot Edwards in the back of the head.
As the guilty verdict was read, Oliver’s wife, Ingrid, began to cry. She and Oliver have a 3-year-old son who is autistic. Oliver also has another child with his ex-wife.
Oliver faces up to life in prison. Jurors are expected to deliberate the sentence on Wednesday.