Ex-Balch Springs police officer sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing teenager

A former Balch Springs police officer will spend time in prison for killing an unarmed African-American teenager last spring.

After about five hours of deliberations on Wednesday, the same jury that convicted Roy Oliver of murder the previous day sentenced him to 15 years and tacked on a $10,000 fine.

But jurors had trouble getting to that point. Three hours after deliberations began, they asked the judge what would happen if they couldn’t agree.

His answer? Keep deliberating.

Just before 9 p.m., the jury sent a second note asking who the fines go to. Judge Brandon Birmingham told them they had all the facts needed in the case and to keep deliberating.

They reached a decision at about 9:30 p.m.

Earlier in the day, prosecutor Michael Snipes asked in his closing statement for a sentence of no fewer than 60 years.

Charmaine Edwards, stepmother of Jordan Edwards, said the family is disappointed that Oliver didn’t get more time. She said she hoped he’d get at least 25 years.

But for now, the family can get closure, she said.

District Attorney Faith Johnson said the last two days have been historic — a police officer being convicted and sentenced for killing an unarmed, young African-American citizen.

She said her office supports good officers and this case sends a message to bad ones that they will be arrested and charged for not following the laws they’re sworn to protect.

Daryl Washington, an attorney for the Edwards family, said Dallas will be an example for cities in the rest of the country.

“All eyes are on Dallas,” he said.

Because he was sentenced to more than 10 years, Oliver is not eligible for an appeal bond and was immediately taken into custody. His attorney, Bob Gill, has filed an appeal.

After announcing the guilty verdict on Tuesday, jurors spent about a day-and-a-half listening to testimony in support of both Jordan Edwards, 15, and Oliver, 38.

Edwards’ teachers from Mesquite High School spoke highly of him.

“He’s not a kid who should be dead,” Alli Clements said. “It’s not what you had in mind for a kid like Jordan.”

Jeffery Williams said, “He was a good student, serious about schoolwork, never had to tell him twice.”

Edwards’ former English teacher, Jenna Williams, said he always followed the rules. She called Edwards a model student.

“Jordan was one of those kids you knew would do great things, amazing things,” she said.

Gill, Oliver’s attorney, asked the jury to remember that Oliver is a former cop and that going into the Texas penitentiary system is going to be an “excruciating, long period of time no matter what it is.”

He asked jurors to consider sentencing Oliver under the category of murder of sudden passion — which lowers the minimum and maximum sentences.

Gill argued that Oliver was reacting to the situation the night he fired five shots into a car filled with five African-American teenage boys.

Edwards, his brothers and friends, were leaving a house party in Balch Springs at about 11 p.m. on April 29, 2017. Oliver and Officer Tyler Gross had been sent to break up the party, which had attracted about 150 to 300 attendees.

As the teenagers were leaving, suspected gang members fired 12 shots into the air at a nearby nursing home. That group of people and the shots were not related to the party that Edwards was attending.

When officers heard the gunshots, the black Impala that Edwards was sitting in caught their attention — it was in the intersection between the party and the nursing home.

Gross commanded the driver, Edwards’ stepbrother Vidal Allen, to stop, but he didn’t. Allen testified later that he was afraid and wanted to get home.

Oliver fired into the passenger side of the car five times, claiming it was going to run over Gross.

But body cameras and testimony proved the opposite.

Attorneys for the Edwards family said body cameras were “extremely important” in the trial.

“When this story first came out, the narrative was very different,” Washington said. “The police chief took the word of what the officer said.”

While jurors deliberated the charges, the hallway outside the sixth-floor courtroom was silent. While they deliberated Oliver’s sentence, friends and family of Edwards stood outside, cracking jokes, smiling, laughing and hugging as if the tension had been lifted.

Nichole Manna, 817-390-7684, @NicholeManna

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