Texas Policeman Charged With Murder

DALLAS (CN) – A fired, white Dallas-area police officer who inexplicably shot and killed an unarmed black teenager with a rifle as he was leaving a party in a car was arrested late Friday for murder and sued in federal court for wrongful death.

Roy Oliver, 37, of Combine, was charged in Dallas County and surrendered to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, according to jail records. He was released on bond and faces up to life in state prison if convicted.

Oliver was fired from the Balch Springs Police Department on Tuesday, three days after police say he shot Jordan Edwards, 15, of Mesquite, in the head as the car Edwards was in drove away from officers.

Police Chief Jonathan Haber has faced intense criticism since the shooting, as his department originally said the car was backing toward officers in an “aggressive manner” when Edwards was shot. Haber was forced to recant on May 1, citing unreleased body camera video that shows the car was instead “moving forward.” Haber said the shooting failed to meet the department’s “core values.”

Edwards is the youngest person to have been shot and killed by police this year, according to a database by The Washington Post. His death has reignited intense criticism of police using excessive force against young black males.

Edwards’ father, Odell Edwards, brought a federal complaint against Oliver and Balch Springs in Dallas within hours of the arrest warrant. He claims that without the bodycam footage, city policymakers and Oliver’s fellow officers would have defended his actions.

The lawsuit claims Edwards, his unidentified stepbrother and brother and two friends left the party at 11 p.m. after it was announced that police were on their way to shut it down. It claims the stepbrother tried to drive off when he heard what he thought to be gunshots being fired.

“He immediately maneuvered out of his parking space in an attempt to escape the area where he thought the shooting came from,” the 24-page complaint states. “As he pulled forward, ahead of the officers, he heard someone shout ‘Stop the fucking car!’ Before he could respond and/or react, defendant Oliver began shooting into the vehicle with a rifle as they attempted to drive away. The bullets entered the front side passenger door shattering the passenger side front window. One of the rounds struck Edwards in the head. The force of the shot was so great it caused Edwards to be thrown to his left side when he landed on the shoulder of” his stepbrother.

The complaint states the stepbrother kept driving, then pulled over to call the plaintiff before police caught up and surrounded the car. It states the stepbrother complied with instructions to rolled down his window, drop his phone outside, step out of the car and face forward.

“He was then told to move to his left but because he was so afraid after just witnessing his brother being shot in the head, he inadvertently moved to his right,” the complaint states. “An officer commented ‘this nigger doesn’t know his fucking left from his right.’”

At no time were the boys told why they were being “harassed, detained and/or arrested,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit claims Oliver has a “reputation for having a short fuse,” citing the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office filing a complaint against him regarding aggressive behavior while serving as a witness in a drunk driving case.

“Oliver was allowed to forfeit ‘sick days’ in lieu of being off the streets and out of uniform for 16 hours” that he was suspended for, the complaint states.

The complaint cites media reports of prosecutors complaining Oliver was being angry at having to attend trial and using vulgar language.

“At one point it got so bad, an assistant D.A. in the room with defendant Oliver sent a text message to another D.A. in the courtroom advising defendant Oliver was scaring them,” the complaint states. “While on the stand, the D.A. asked defendant Oliver a question. Oliver responded with ‘I don’t understand the fucking question.’”

The complaint further claims Oliver pulled his handgun on a motorist who rear-ended his car last month in southwest Dallas. It claims the motorist said she was afraid and asked him to put his gun away.

“Defendant Oliver refused, began to yell, became very upset, and never identified himself as an officer,” the complaint states. “She then called the police because as far as she knew a man was holding her at gun point.”

Balch Springs police said in a statement it was not informed of the arrest warrant ahead of time. It said the department has supported an independent criminal investigation from the beginning “so that complete transparency” is provided to the public.

Odell Edwards’ lawsuit seeks actual and punitive damages for negligence, wrongful death and several civil rights violations. He is represented by Daryl K. Washington in Dallas.

Edwards’ family said the murder charge only provides a “bit of reprieve” during a time of “intense mourning” for their son and brother.

“Although we realize that there remain significant obstacles ahead on the road to justice, this action brings hope that the justice system will bend against the overwhelming weight of our frustration,” they said in a written statement Friday evening.

Edwards will be buried on Saturday at Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church in a private service. His family acknowledged the public’s interest in the funeral, but said they are not ready “to make a martyr of our son.”

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