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Texas cop guilty of murdering black teen

by Christopher Suarez - Copy Editor
Tue, Sep 4th 2018 11:00 pm

After a year and four months since the fatal shooting of 15-year-old football player Jordan Edwards, , the jury has finally agreed to a verdict... Roy Oliver, a former police officer for   the Balch Springs Police Department has been found guilty of  first degree murder. Oliver admitted to firing at a car filled with several unarmed teenagers after reporting to neighbor’s complaints of underage drinking at a house nearby. 

In his defense, Oliver proclaimed that he shot at the vehicle when it appeared as if it was heading straight toward his partner, Tyler Gross. However according to the Washington Post, Gross testified that he “didn’t feel like the driver was trying to hit me,” and therefore felt no need to use any aggressive engagements. 

Edwards attended Mesquite High School in Balch Springs. As a freshman, Edwards was a talented student-athlete, with dreams of someday playing football at the University of Alabama. Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes fought for Edwards and his family to get the justice they deserved, using Jordan’s innocence and potential to try sway the jury. With a bright future ahead of him and as a young kid having fun, Edwards had just found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Edwards was in the passenger seat of the car when Oliver fired five AK-15 shots into the moving car. According to his friends that were with him, he had warned them to “duck” and “get down” just moments before he was shot in the head. Oliver’s first mistake was shooting into a moving vehicle, which goes against Balch Springs Police Department’s policy. “I had to make a decision. This car is about to hit my partner. I had no other option,” Oliver stated when questioned about his judgement. 

The jury’s conclusion let Oliver off the hook with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, but found him guilty of murder. The verdict is a rare outcome for cases involving cops who have killed on the job. 

Since 2005, there have been over 80 officers charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings. Only 35% of the officers charged were convicted, while the other 65% had their charges dropped or are still pending. 

In a court of law, most juries tend to side with the police because of their higher ranking and important position in society. Along with respected police reputations, the Graham v. Connor case in 1989 established that the “use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” This ruling defends cops who have to make quick decisions when placed in a dangerous situation. Yet in this situation, the scene was pronounced as non-threatening between the officers and partygoers.

Edwards’ family and supporters who came to hear the closing verdict were relieved to hear that Oliver was found guilty of murder. They felt as if Edwards had received the jus tice he deserved unlike the majority of others who had not.This case is one of the very few that ended in their favor or where the cop was convicted of a crime. This instance may relieve aggressive racial tensions and also act as a nationwide warning to all police forces. 

Considering how common shootings like this one are becoming, courts of law and its juries may now be questioning the belligerence of police attitudes and actions. 

csuar1@brockport.edu  

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