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Ex-officer indicted on murder charge in Black teen's death

CLAUDIA LAUER | 7/24/2017, 2:21 a.m.
A White former police officer has been indicted on a murder charge in the April shooting death of Jordan Edwards, ...
Jordan Edwards' parents Odell and Charmaine Edwards arrive at a news conference. A White former Texas police officer has been indicted on a murder charge in the shooting death of their 15-year-old son, July 17. LM Otero

(AP) – A White former police officer has been indicted on a murder charge in the April shooting death of Jordan Edwards, a Black teenager who was a passenger in a car that was leaving a party in Balch Springs, prosecutors said Monday.

The grand jury’s indictment of Roy Oliver also charges him with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public official related to the other four teens who were in the car with 15-year-old Edwards, according to Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.

Oliver, 37, was fired from the Balch Springs Police Department in May for violating department policies. Body camera footage of the incident showed Oliver shooting his rifle into a car that was moving away from him and another officer.

Edwards, his two brothers and two other teens were leaving the party where police had arrived to investigate an underage drinking complaint. Officers heard unrelated gunshots and spotted the vehicle leaving.

Shots from Oliver’s rifle pierced the front passenger window, hitting Edwards in the head as he sat in the front seat.

An attorney for the teen’s family, Lee Merritt, said Oliver getting indicted is “one step on the road to justice.”

“We’re looking forward to a conviction and proper sentencing,” the lawyer said. He added that anything less than serious jail time wouldn’t be adequate.

Johnson promised during a news conference to thoroughly prosecute the case. With Edwards’ parents at her side, the district attorney touted the speed with which Oliver was charged and arrested.

“This is the very first time we have issued an arrest warrant for a police officer before the case was presented to the grand jury,” she said. “As we move forward, my office continues to be committed to seeking justice for Jordan and his family.”

Charmaine Edwards said the world lost “so much” with the death of her stepson, who was a high school freshman at the time.

“A great kid, a great football player, straight-A student ... somebody who was going to go somewhere,” she said.

Oliver’s attorney, Jim Lane, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Monday.

“Today’s indictment of Roy Oliver in the murder of Jordan Edwards is long overdue,” said Brianna Brown, deputy director of the Texas Organizing Project, in a statement to the media. “It was completely inexcusable for Oliver to shoot his rifle into a moving vehicle that was traveling away from him and another officer. We need a shift in how law enforcement agencies across the country train and hold their officers accountable.

“The issuing of this indictment further serves as a reminder that racially-motivated police violence has no place in Dallas County. On a daily basis, Black and Brown residents throughout Dallas County face verbal and physical abuse, and potentially lethal violence, at the hands of officers who have not been trained to deal with their implicit biases against people of color, especially Black men.

On behalf of TOP, Brown demanded that Johnson use an independent prosecutor to investigate the case, aggressively prosecute Oliver, and then have the U.S. Department of Justice investigate discriminatory policing in Balch Springs.