Police officers aren't usually found guilty of murder, even when the evidence is pretty damning. Yesterday saw a rare exception to that rule.
The case involves 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who attended a house party in Balch Springs, Texas, in May 2017. When police arrived, he and his friends attempted to leave in a vehicle. Officer Roy Oliver shot into the car and killed Edwards, who was sitting in the passenger seat.
As Reason previously reported, Oliver was responding to a call about underaged drinking at the party. He initially defended the shooting by saying that the car in which Edwards sat was backing up "in an aggressive manner" toward him and his partner. Police Chief Jonathan Haber would later publicly contradict Oliver, saying that the car was actually driving forward.
According to family attorney Lee Merritt, police later detained Edwards' 16-year-old brother without cause and did not inform him of his brother's death until later. Merritt also says that Oliver and the others in the vehicle were not drinking and were not the reason the police were called. The family sought to preempt any negative characterizations of Edwards by revealing that he was straight-A student, a ninth grader, a nonviolent person, and a young black teen whose father was present in his life.
The department fired Oliver just days after the shooting. And yesterday, after deliberating for 13 hours, a jury found him guilty of murder. They found him not guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant.
Oliver maintained during the trial that he "had no other option but to use lethal force," and he retreated to his original story by saying, "A car is a deadly weapon." But the jury was unconvinced, in part because there was body camera footage that told a different story. The footage shows other officers interacting with the partygoers peacefully just before gunshots rang in the distance, and it shows Oliver firing five shots into the vehicle as it drives away.