DALLAS (CN) – A fired white police officer told a Dallas County jury Thursday he had no choice but to fire on a car to protect his fellow officer, killing unarmed black 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
Roy Oliver, 38, of Combine, was dressed in a gray suit and green-striped tie as he testified in his murder trial that he had “no information” on who a purported shooter was when he arrived at the scene of reported gunfire in April 2017, and he focused on the Chevrolet Impala that Edwards and several others were in because it was a threat to another officer when he arrived.
“As I came to level ground, the vehicle came to a stop for a slight moment, then accelerated forward,” Oliver said as he showed jurors with his hands the proximity of the car towards his partner. “As it was gaining ground towards him, I had to make a decision. 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.”
Oliver fired five shots from his rifle, one of which struck Edwards, of Mesquite, in the head. Within days, Oliver was fired from the Balch Spring Police Department and sued in federal court by Edwards’ father.
Edwards, his brother, a stepbrother and two friends were leaving a party when it was announced police were on their way to shut it down and they had nothing to do with the gunshots that were heard, the lawsuit states.
Edwards’ father paints Oliver as a hothead, citing complaints made by Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson’s office that he would allegedly become aggressive and use vulgar language while testifying as a witness in previous cases.
Oliver showed no signs of aggressiveness during his testimony Thursday, speaking steadily and methodically as he responded to questions from defense attorney Jim Lane.
He testified that he is “heartbroken” by Edwards’ death but that he believes he responded appropriately to the perceived threat.
“My heart sank,” he said when discovering Edwards was dead. “It was hard to breathe.”
Oliver also testified about his past service in the U.S. Army and a past deployment to Iraq. He became emotional when he talked about enduring mortar fire and the death of friends during a suicide bombing.
On cross-examination, prosecutors displayed large photographs of Edwards’ blood-soaked body to the jurors. Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes asked Oliver why he did not fire warning shots or shoot the tires out. Oliver responded that such action is not allowed and “not safe”
“Were you trying to seriously injure or kill the driver of the car?” Snipes asked. “There’s no other reason to fire four or five shots into the car.”
“I was trying to stop the threat inside the vehicle, correct,” Oliver responded. “I was not aware it was four or five shots.”
Testimony ended on Friday, with the defense resting and prosecutors calling Monique Arredondo as a rebuttal witness. She testified that Oliver was “angry” and “raging” after she rear-ended his personal truck two weeks before Edwards’ death and failed to identify himself as a cop.
“As soon as we impacted, I see a man get out of his truck quickly, approach our vehicle and point his gun at my sister,” she told jurors.
Her testimony came after defense attorneys failed to persuade state District Judge Brandon Birmingham to bar her and her sister as witnesses. The judge reasoned the testimony was allowed since Oliver testified about the accident during direct examination by his attorneys.
Closing arguments will begin on Monday.
Edwards’ death resulted in an the announcement of an investigation by the Department of Justice in May 2017, as the country continues to grapple with the issue of excessive force being used by police on young black males.
Balch Springs, population 24,000, is a suburb to the southeast of Dallas.