By RYAN TARINELLI Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) – A white former police officer was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday night after being convicted of murder a day earlier for killing an unarmed 15-year-old boy when he fired into a car filled with black teenagers leaving a house party in suburban Dallas.
Roy Oliver’s conviction Tuesday in the April 2017 death of Jordan Edwards was handed down by the same jury that delivered his punishment. He also was fined $10,000. Prosecutors had sought a minimum of 60 years in prison.
Edwards’ family praised prosecutors and the verdict – but said the sentence was too lenient.
Charmaine Edwards, Jordan’s stepmother, said of Oliver, “He can actually see life again after 15 years and that’s not enough because Jordan can’t see life again.”
The Dallas-based group Mothers Against Police Brutality expressed dissatisfaction with the sentence, saying in a statement that what Oliver received “is not at all commensurate with his crime.”
Oliver’s defense team said it had already begun the process of appealing. His attorneys said he would be eligible for parole after 7 ½ years, but they also said they were concerned about his safety in prison and that authorities will take extra precautions to protect him. The verdict marked an extremely rare murder conviction for shootings involving on-duty police officers. Daryl Washington, an attorney for Edwards’ father, said though it could have been longer, the sentence still sends a message.
“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,” he said.
Oliver was a police officer in the community of Balch Springs when he and his partner responded to reports of underage drinking at the party. Oliver fired into a car carrying Edwards and his friends, later saying he feared the vehicle was moving toward and endangering his partner. Edwards, who was in the front passenger seat, was shot.
The jury deliberated late into the night before settling on a prison sentence. Earlier, they heard from Oliver’s mother, Linda, who said he was a good man and a devoted father and asked jurors for a five-year sentence, saying her young grandson needs his father’s support.
“He needs his father’s love. He needs his father’s income. He needs his father’s guidance,” she said.
Oliver’s wife also testified, saying in Spanish through an interpreter that she was concerned about their 3-year-old son, who is autistic. But the ex-officer’s half sister took the stand against him, saying she felt compelled to do so after listening to testimony during the trial and that she hoped he “gets what he deserves.”
Earlier Wednesday, Dallas County district attorney Faith Johnson said Oliver was a “killer in blue” and told jurors they could send a message that bad officers will not be tolerated.
Police initially said the vehicle backed up toward officers “in an aggressive manner,” but later admitted that bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached. Oliver’s partner told jurors he didn’t believe his life was ever in danger.
Investigators said no guns were found in the vehicle. Oliver was fired from the Balch Springs Police Department days after the shooting.
The jury, which featured two black members out of 12 jurors and two alternates, acquitted Oliver on two lesser charges of aggravated assault stemming from the shooting.
It’s extremely rare for police officers to be tried and convicted of murder for shootings that occurred while they are on duty. Only six non-federal police officers have been convicted of murder in such cases – and four of those convictions were overturned – since 2005, according to data compiled by criminologist and Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson.
Edwards’ father has also filed a civil lawsuit in connection to the shooting. The jury’s decision is not just about Jordan Edwards, but all other black men and women who have been killed and not received justice, said Washington, the attorney for the teen’s father.
This story has been corrected to show that Edwards’ father testified Tuesday, not Wednesday.
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