Ex-Balch Springs Cop Roy Oliver Found Guilty of Murder

Jordan Edwards
Jordan Edwards Lee Merritt
A Dallas County jury found former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver guilty of murder in the death of teenager Jordan Edwards. Oliver fired his rifle five times into a Chevrolet Impala driving away from a party in the eastern Dallas County town in April 2017. Oliver hit Edwards, 15, in the head, killing the Mesquite High School freshman.

The verdict arrived Tuesday afternoon, and the jury is now tasked with deciding his punishment.

"I just want to say I’m happy. Very happy. It’s been a long time, a hard year, but I’m really happy," Odell Edwards, Jordan's father, said after the verdict.

Daryl Washington, an attorney for the family, said that the jury's decision was about more than one case.

"This has been a hard-fought battle. Odell and I were talking last night and one of the things he said is that he doesn’t want another parent, another father to have to go through what his family has had to deal with. This case is not just about Jordan," Washington said. "It’s about Tamir Rice. It’s about Walter Scott. It’s about Alton Sterling. It’s about every unarmed African-American who has been killed and has not gotten justice. We’re just happy that, here in Dallas, Texas, Roy Oliver is going to have to do his time for taking Jordan’s life."

Over the course of Oliver's weeklong trial, his attorneys have argued that he acted as any reasonable police officer would have, from the moment he broke up the party that preceded the shooting to the moment he shot Edwards. Oliver shot at the car, which was driving away from him at the time, because he believed it posed a threat to his partner, Tyler Gross, the defense argued.

"The paramount duty of a police officer is to make sure his partner goes home at the end of a shift," defense attorney Bob Gill said during his closing argument Monday. "They protect their buddy. They protect their partner, and that's what Roy Oliver did that night. That vehicle was pointed at Tyler Gross and it was a threat to Tyler Gross and that is why Roy Oliver reasonably made the decision that he had to make."

Gross testified Aug. 16 that he was not in fear as the car in which Edwards was riding tried to drive away from the party. 
click to enlarge Roy Oliver - PARKER COUNTY
Roy Oliver
Parker County

The prosecution, as it has throughout its case against Oliver, accused the former officer of acting like a madman on the night of the shooting.

"He shouldn't be in the grave like he is," assistant district attorney Michael Snipes said of Edwards. "[Oliver] put him there. He shot five times into the night. ... This guy is an angry, out-of-control, walking bomb. A time bomb that went off on April 29, 2017. There's no danger to him. There's just an out-of-control, trigger-happy, dangerous defendant."

As it weighed Oliver's fate Monday afternoon, the jury had several options: They could have convicted the former officer of murder, making him the first Dallas County cop convicted of that crime since Dallas' Darrell L. Cain shot Santos Rodriguez in the head in the back of a squad car more than 40 years ago. They also could have convicted Oliver of manslaughter or aggravated assault by a public servant.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young