DALLAS (CN) – The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into a fired, white Dallas-area police officer who killed a young black man by firing a rifle into a carload of black teenagers as they left a party, the Dallas County district attorney confirmed Thursday.
Roy Oliver, 37, of Combine, was fired from the Balch Springs Police Department and charged with murder last week after he fired a rifle into a car full of teenagers as they left a party in April. He killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
Oliver faces up to life in state prison if convicted. He is free on $300,000 bond.
Balch Springs, pop. 24,000, is on the southeast edge of the Greater Dallas Metro area.
Police officials have been heavily criticized for initially defending Oliver, saying the car was backing toward officers in an “aggressive manner” when he shot Edwards.
Police Chief Jonathan Haber was forced to recant on May 1, saying unreleased body camera video shows the car was moving forward. Haber said the shooting failed to meet the department’s “core values.”
District Attorney Faith Johnson’s spokeswoman Brittany Dunn confirmed the separate federal investigation of the Balch Springs Police Department. She told The Associated Press she did not know the scope or focus of the federal probe.
Edwards’ family met with Johnson in her downtown Dallas office Thursday afternoon to discuss her office’s criminal investigation of the shooting. Their attorney, Lee Merritt, said at a news conference afterward that Johnson seeks justice and is “committed” to getting Oliver convicted.
“It is a somber process; it is not fun and games,” Merritt said. “We discussed the amount of evidence provided to our team, the communication and updates that will be provided to the family and what will be expected of the family in preparing for the prosecution.”
Edwards’ family declined to speak to reporters. Merritt also confirmed the Justice Department’s investigation of the shooting.
“It is very difficult in the United States, let alone in the great state of Texas, to see a police officer charged or let along convicted,” Merritt said. “We plan to see this through to the end.”
Edwards is the youngest person killed by police this year, according to a Washington Post database. His death has reignited criticism of police use of excessive force against young black men.
Edwards’ father, Odell Edwards, sued Oliver and Balch Springs in Federal Court on May 5. He claims that without the bodycam footage, city policymakers and Oliver’s fellow officers would have defended his actions. He said his surviving son drove the car that was fired upon, that the boys in the car were harassed by police, subjected to racial slurs and were not told why they were arrested.
The lawsuit portrays Oliver as a hothead, citing complaints made by Johnson’s office alleging aggressive behavior and use of vulgar language while testifying as a witness in other cases.