DALLAS (CN) – A Dallas County jury on Monday began deliberating the fate of fired white police officer Roy Oliver for shooting into a car and killing unarmed, black 15-year-old Jordan Edwards last year.
Deliberations began after impassioned closing arguments where prosecutors portrayed Oliver, 38, of Combine, as an out-of-control hothead at the Balch Springs Police Department, while defense attorneys insisted he was acting as a protector of his partner who he feared was going to get run over by the car driven by Edwards’ brother.
Jurors have the option of convicting Oliver of murder or manslaughter. The trial has been closely followed as the country continues to grapple with the issue of police using excessive force against young black males.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes told jurors Edwards was an innocent kid who was “the real deal.”
“He really had a million friends, who really had a 3.5 grade point average, he really did want to go to [the University of] Alabama to play football,” Snipes said as he pointed to the packed gallery. “He really did have a million friends … he did not deserve to die on the night of April 29, 2017.”
Standing in front of the jury box, Snipes pointed at Oliver, who looked down into his lap.
Snipes paused and said, “He put him there. He shot five times into the night.” The prosecutor pointed to the other teenage passengers that were in the car that night seated in the gallery and said they would be dead too if it was not “for the grace of God.”
“You think about that. It is a miracle,” Snipes said. “This guy is a walking, out-of-control time bomb … there was no danger to him. There was just a dangerous, trigger-happy, out-control defendant who was looking for a reason to kill.”
Defense attorney Bob Gill insisted prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Oliver is guilty of murder, saying instead that his client acted to save his partner from being run over.
He said Oliver only had a “split second” to make his decision to pull the trigger. Gill blamed the driver for not stopping the car as police were commanding him to do.
“They protect their buddy, they protect their partner and that’s what Roy Oliver did that night,” he said. “That car was pointed at [Balch Springs police officer] Tyler Gross and it was a threat to him. That’s why Roy Oliver reasonably made the decision that he made. He was put in that position not by his own actions, but by a combination of events that night. We cannot look at anything in a vacuum or by itself, everything has to be looked at together.”
Snipes disagreed, saying that Oliver had a whole nine seconds between starting to run in the street and firing the first shot.
During testimony last week, Oliver said he has “no information” on who a purported shooter was when he arrived at the scene of reported gunfire. He said he focused on the Chevrolet Impala the teenage boys were in because it was a threat to another officer.
“As it was gaining ground towards him, I had to make a decision,” Oliver said. “This car is about to hit my partner, there are threats inside the car. When lethal force headed towards us, I had no other option but to use lethal force.”
Prosecutors called rebuttal witnesses after Oliver’s testimony who rear-ended the officer’s personal truck two weeks before Edwards’ death. The witnesses said Oliver was “angry” and “raging,” failed to identify himself as a police officer and pointed his gun at one of them.