Former Police Officer Guilty Of Murder In Texas Teen's Death
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
A white former police officer in a Dallas suburb was convicted Tuesday of killing Jordan Edwards, an unarmed black teenager. It's the first time in 45 years a Texas officer was found guilty of murder for shooting while on duty. Bill Zeeble of member station KERA reports.
BILL ZEEBLE, BYLINE: A little over a year ago, two police officers responded to a call about a loud house party in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs. When the officers entered the home, they heard the sound of gunshots outside. Officer Roy Oliver grabbed his rifle. He said a car full of teenagers was driving toward him. He fired five times and killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Oliver lost his job. But Tuesday, a jury convicted him of murder.
Charmaine Edwards is Jordan's stepmom. She was surprised that a white police officer is actually being punished for killing a black teen.
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CHARMAINE EDWARDS: It's so many times that you see on the TV that this has happened. And nothing ever happens. They justify it, and the police just walk away. And I'm forever grateful that y'all seen it your hearts to see that it was wrong.
ZEEBLE: At the trial, Roy Oliver said he was defending his partner, Tyler Gross, from the oncoming car. But Gross says he wasn't worried about his safety and the shooting of Jordan Edwards was unjustified. It turns out, the gunshots police heard had come from across the street.
Witnesses for the prosecution said the party the kids attended that night had no drugs or alcohol and was filled with responsible teenagers like Jordan Edwards. Jordan's English teacher, Jenna Williams, was at the courthouse Tuesday. Since his death, she says Jordan's desk has remained empty.
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JENNA WILLIAMS: The last seat that Jordan had, no one would sit in there. And if anyone came in, like, a new kid and tried to sit in it, they would say, like, you can't sit there. That's Jordan's seat. And if anyone tried to, like, stand by it, it was like a shrine to Jordan. No one was allowed to sit in that chair.
ZEEBLE: Hundreds of people are shot and killed by police every year in the United States, but it's rare that any are convicted of a crime.
SARA MOKURIA: This is an unprecedented moment.
ZEEBLE: Sara Mokuria was also at the courthouse. She co-founded Mothers Against Police Brutality, based in Dallas.
MOKURIA: In Dallas, the last time an on-duty officer was convicted of an officer-involved shooting was decades ago - nearly 50 years ago.
ZEEBLE: The trial was in Dallas. But in the suburb of Balch Springs, where Jordan Edwards was killed, not everybody was happy about the verdict.
BILLIE SCHERZER: That man shouldn't have been convicted of murder.
ZEEBLE: Billie Scherzer has lived in Balch Springs for years.
SCHERZER: I mean, what about the 15-year-old kid at the party at 11 o'clock at night? To me, when they're out like that, they're up to no good.
ZEEBLE: But the court concluded that Roy Oliver was up to no good. He now faces up to 99 years in prison. The jury is expected to deliver a sentence as early as today.
For NPR News, I'm Bill Zeeble in Dallas.
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