The conviction of Roy Oliver — a white former police officer who killed Jordan Edwards, an unarmed African American teenager, while on duty last year — sends a message to bad police.
“We want to say to people like Roy Oliver, if you go out and murder anybody, we’re committed to making certain that we prosecute people like that,” Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said late Wednesday. “And we won’t wait. We’re going to do exactly what we did with Roy Oliver.”
She and other attorneys have said that officers like Oliver need to be prosecuted when they commit crimes so the public can trust good police officers.
“We love our police,” Johnson said. “We trust them and know that they are committed to making sure that the people of Dallas County are safe, secured. We love them and support police. However, we do not support bad apples.”
Daryl Washington, an attorney for Jordan Edwards’ family, said black children and teenagers can feel a little safer now that officers know they’ll be held accountable.
“We believe that little boys and little girls are going to be able to go to teenager parties and feel like if they’re in danger, they can go to police officers and not run away from police officers,” he said.
Parents, he said, should not have to have conversations with their children about how to talk and interact with officers in order to stay safe.
Late Wednesday, the same jury that convicted Oliver of shooting Jordan Edwards outside a party last spring sentenced him to prison for 15 years. He’ll likely serve the majority of that sentence, authorities said.
The length of the prison term brought mixed emotions.
“We know that there are parents all over this country who would love to see the person who took the life of their kid spend the next 15 years in prison,” Washington said.
But Edwards’ stepmother, Charmaine Edwards, said the family was hoping for at least 25 years. Prosecutor Michael Snipes asked the jury to sentence Oliver to 60 — the number of years of life Jordan Edwards, 15, had in front of him.
“(Oliver) can actually see life again after 15 years and that’s not enough, because Jordan can’t see life again,” Charmaine Edwards said.
Mothers Against Police Brutality released a statement that Oliver’s sentence does not conform with the severity of his conviction.
Of the more than 8,500 people in Texas serving time for murder, more than half are serving sentences of more than 40 years, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. About 9 percent are serving sentences of 10 to 20 years.
“Justice is not served when the murderer of Jordan Edwards, considering all the evidence presented at trial, should receive a sentence less than that of almost 90 percent of other murderers in this state,” the group said. “If anything, Roy Oliver deserves a sentence longer than the average sentence for murder in Texas. … Oliver cut short the life of a promising young man, but in that act he has also shredded the social contract between law enforcement and the public and left it drenched in blood on a street in Balch Springs.”
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, filed an appeal, alleging that there were errors made during the trial and in the jury charges.
After the sentence was read, Gill said, “I think what we want people to take from this is that anytime a police officer is called upon and forced to exercise his deadly force option, it’s a tragedy for both the officer and the family of the deceased involved.”
On their Facebook page, the Balch Springs Police Department said, “There isn’t anyone in our department or the community who has not been impacted by this tragedy or doesn’t wish there had been a different outcome that night. Nothing that we can say as a police department will provide comfort or closure to the Edwards family.”
The statement said that officers are continuing to build trust with their community and that this “one tragic incident cannot be allowed to define our department or our relationship with the people we serve and protect.”
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, killing Jordan Edwards.
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,” said Washington, the family’s attorney. “The police chief took the word of what the officer said.”