UPDATE (August 28, 2018): A jury has found former Balch Springs, Texas, police officer Roy Oliver guilty of murder in the death of Jordan Edwards. The sentencing phase in the case is set to begin this afternoon. Oliver’s bail was revoked and he was taken into custody after the jury’s verdict. You can watch live video of the penalty phase here.
You can read our report on the shooting below:
The fired Balch Springs police officer who fatally shot a 15-year-old boy who was a passenger in a car leaving a party last Saturday night has been charged with murder, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Former officer Roy Oliver, 37, shot Jordan Edwards with a rifle through the passenger side window of the car full of teens he was riding in. Jordan, whose brothers witnessed the shooting, was shot in the head and rushed to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
Oliver, who had been an officer since 2011, was fired Wednesday. Police said Oliver violated several department polices, leading to his termination, which he can appeal within 10 days.
“Firing the officer who killed #JordanEdwards is a good start but if I murdered someone at work, firing would be the least of my concerns,” the Edwards family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, said on Twitter. “Another family ripped apart by police brutality. There was absolutely no justification for this murder.”
He said Jordan was leaving a party with his brothers and friends and were trying to escape from gunfire when the shooting occurred.
“They were simply leaving a party where they believed danger was,” Merritt told KTVT-TV.”So I can’t wrap my mind around why an officer decided to shoot into the car.”
Balch Springs, a city of about 23,000 people, is located in north Texas, about 20 minutes from Dallas. A memorial fund has been set up to help the Edwards family.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Car Jordan & 4 Other Teens Were in Was Driving Away From Police When the Rifle-Wielding Officer Shot the Teen in the Head
Officers responded to the 12300 block of Baron Drive about 11 p.m. Saturday after receiving a 911 call reporting “several underage kids drunk walking around,” Balch Springs Police said in a press release posted Sunday.
Neighbors told KTVT-TV reporter Gabriel Roxas that there had been a large house party attended by “unsupervised teens” in the area near where officers responded.
The officers “arrived to investigate,” and “during the investigation, officers heard gunfire,” police said in the press release. Officer Pedro Gonzalez, the police department’s spokesman, said the officers were inside the house when they heard the gunfire, which caused a “chaotic scene with numerous people running away from the location.” Gonzalez said the officers left the house and saw a car backing toward the street. Gonzalez said an officer, who has not been identified, confronted the vehicle, and made verbal commands for it to stop. Police said the driver ignored the commands to stop and backed into the roadway, before continuing to drive down the main road, away from the officer.
Gonzalez said it was then that a second officer, Roy Oliver, opened fire, shooting multiple times with his rifle, in violation of several departmental policies.
Police initially said in that press release the officer fired on the vehicle when it backed toward officers.
“There was an unknown altercation with a vehicle backing down the street towards the officers in an aggressive manner,” police said in a Sunday press release. “An officer shot at the vehicle striking the front seat passenger.”
But they later said that was not true. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber contradicted his and the department’s original account of the incident on Monday, after reviewing body camera footage, the Dallas Morning News reports. Haber said the teen driving the car first backed down the street, but then started driving forward, away from the officers, when the shooting occurred.
Haber said he “unintentionally” gave incorrect information. “In fact, according to the video that I viewed, the vehicle was moving forward as the vehicle approached,” Haber said.
“There were no weapons involved; there was no aggressive behavior; these were not suspects,” attorney Lee Merritt told the New York Times. “The lone motive they had for the murder was that the vehicle was being used as a weapon, and now that is no longer there.”
“They have a dead child, they have the identity of the shooter, and they have no explanation for the shooting. They have more than sufficient probable cause to make an arrest,” Merritt told the Times.
Jordan was shot in the head by Oliver, using a rifle, the Dallas Medical Examiner’s Office said. His death has been ruled a homicide.
“From our policies, which I went by, there were violations. I acted on them,” Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said at a press conference announcing Oliver’s firing. “You have my assurances my department will continue to be responsive, transparent and accountable.”
One of Jordan’s brothers, who is 16, was handcuffed after the shooting and held overnight, Merritt said.
“After seeing his brother get shot, Jordan’s older brother was handcuffed and taken by police for no particular reason,” Merritt told NBC News. He was later released without charges and is not a suspect.
The teens were not drinking, Merritt said. He added that the boys’ father was also held at a Dallas County building after he arrived at the police station to ask about his sons. “Balch Springs PD called the Dallas County Sheriff’s office and asked if they could restrain Jordan’s father because of his ‘hostile” behavior,’ he said.
2. Oliver Was Suspended in 2013 Because of Anger Issues After Prosecutors Said He Used ‘Vulgar’ Language & Was a ‘Scary Person to Have in Our Work Room’
Roy Durwood Oliver II, 37, was hired as a Balch Springs Police Department officer on July 25, 2011, the department said. He was fired on Tuesday after an internal investigation into the shooting was completed. The city’s police chief made the decision to fire Oliver, finding he violated multiple departmental policies. The department said they cannot release the details about the policies that Oliver is accused of violating, because he can still appeal his termination.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the Edwards family, said on Twitter that Oliver is appealing.
Oliver was suspended in 2013 because of anger issues, NBC News reports.
Oliver “failed to comply” with the city’s code of ethics during an interaction in court with district attorneys. He started yelling profane language while on the stand, according to his personnel file, which was obtained by NBC News. Oliver said he was “angry” because he had to attend court and started using “language that was so vulgar that the assistant DA had a young female intern leave the room.” The report states that the district attorney sent a text message to a colleague in another courtroom saying that the officer was “scaring them” with his behavior. The prosecutors said Oliver “was a scary person to have in our work room.”
The former officer admitted to being “angry and aggressive” and was suspended for 16 hours and ordered to complete anger management and training in court room demeanor and testimony, his file states.
He also received marks in his file after he received a low score for “the extent to which this employee is able to communicate with the public as wells as other employees both verbally and in writing,” in 2013, and in 2014 when he was ordered to “familiarize” himself with “policies and procedures” so there would be less paperwork related to “policy violations.”
Oliver also had an “instance in which he was disrespectful to a civilian on a call” this year.
Oliver’s attorney, Cindy Stormer, a former prosecutor, told the Dallas Morning News she is asking the public to be patient while the case is investigated.
“We cannot make any comments at this time,” Stormer said in a statement to the newspaper. “The incident is recent and still being investigated. Everyone should wait until the facts come out and we know more.”
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said at a press conference Monday that after viewing the video of the shooting he believes Oliver’s actions, “did not meet our core values.” Haber told reporters, “I do have questions in relation to my observation on the video, and what is consistent with the policies and core values of the Balch Springs Police Department.”
Haber said about the incorrect account of what happened during the incident, “In a hurry to get the statement out, I misspoke. I take responsibility for that.”
Other officials have also spoken about the shooting.
“Unfortunately, the more things change the more they remain the same,” Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “But for video — it’s not as though it’s a new phenomenon — but for video of an individual fleeing and getting shot in the back — but for video — it speaks for itself.”
He told the newspaper he wasn’t surprised the officer’s account was different from what the video showed.
“Usually they always do. But the video — it’s not new. It doesn’t make a difference whether it was in Louisiana, the Carolinas, in Texas; it’s the same. What’s changed? We’ve said that for years,” he said.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson said in a statement she spoke with Jordan’s family.
“I have also spoken with Dallas County Sheriff, Lupe Valdez and Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson regarding this terrible tragedy. Both Sheriff Valdez and District Attorney Faith Johnson assured me their offices are conducting fair, independent and thorough investigations. I will remain in contact with each as the details of their respective investigations unfold,” she said. “It is imperative that we aggressively pursue these two separate investigations to preserve the trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
3. Oliver Served in the U.S. Army, Including in Iraq, Before He Became a Police Officer
Oliver, of Arlington, served in the Army, according to a now-deleted November
Facebook post about a talk he gave to students at Mesquite High School about his service.
The Department of Defense said Oliver was on active duty from 2004 to 2010. He served two tours in Iraq, from October 2004 to September 2005 and January to November 2009, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Before becoming a peace officer in 2010 in Dalworthington Gardens near Fort Worth, Oliver had been on active duty with the Army since 2004. He served two tours in Iraq, from October 2004 to September 2005 and from January to November 2009. He left the Army and served in the National Guard until 2012, leaving as a sergeant.
His time in the military included a stint from 2008 to 2010 in the Army National Guard as the personal security officer to the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, according to his Linkedin profile.
“Ensure the safety of the Commander at all cost. Conduct site recons before visits and/or meetings. Operations NCO for PSD team,” he wrote on Linkedin.
Oliver attended Tarrant County College in 2002. Before being hired by the Balch Springs Police Department, Olvier was an officer for one year in Dalworthington Gardens, near Fort Worth, the Dallas Morning News reports.
He worked for the city part-time over 12 years, as a dispatcher, in public works and in the department of Public Safety. He received no complaints and had disciplinary issues, the newspaper reports.
According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Oliver’s most recent training was a firearms course on April 22 at the Balch Springs Police Department, the newspaper reports. He also completed training classes including Precision Rifle, Less Lethal Electronic Control Device Training and Use of Force.
The officer has been married since 2004 and is a father, according to social media postings.
His mother, Linda, told KXAS-TV he is a “man of stronger character.” She told the New York times she “raised my kids to give back to the community and he has. He is a very devoted father of two young children and he is deep in faith.”
4. The 15-Year-Old Boy Was Remembered as Being ‘Brilliant,’ ‘Humble’ & Always Smiling
Jordan Edwards was a freshman at Mesquite High School and loved to play football, his family and friends said. Lee Merritt released a statement on behalf of the family on Tuesday:
We would like to thank everyone for their kind words, thoughts, prayers and condolences as we mourn the tremendous loss our family and community has suffered. We know that so many of your share in our loss. At this time we ask that you please be respectful of our family and allow us the opportunity and space to grieve. This entire ordeal has been inescapable.
Jordan was a loving child, with a humble and sharing spirit. The bond that he shared with his family, particularly his siblings, was indescribable. Not only have Jordan’s brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder. Their young lives will forever be altered. No one, let alone young children, should witness such horrific, explainable, violence. While our family attempts to cope with our loss, we ask that at this time the community please refrain from protests and marches in Jordan’s and our family’s name as we prepare for his funeral. We do not support nor do we condone any violence or threats made against the Balch Springs Police Department or any other law enforcement agencies. What we desire only second to having our beloved Jordan back, is JUSTICE FOR JORDAN.
Jeff Fleener, the head football coach at the school, told the Dallas Morning News he is “crushed and heartbroken” by Jordan’s death, saying the teen was never in trouble and had a GPA over 3.5. Fleener said Jordan played on the freshman football team and he had a “smile that could light up a room.”
“The best thing in the world or the worst thing in the world would happen, and he’d smile and everything would be OK,” Fleener told the newspaper. “You create a checklist of everything you would want in a player, a son, a teammate, a friend and Jordan had all that. He was that kid.”
A longtime family friend, Robbin McDonald, told KDFW-TV that Jordan “was a straight A student, I can tell you he was always smiling. I can tell you he was a very, very brilliant and humble and very sweet kid.”
His former football coach, Kim Hickman, told KXAS-TV, “I’m hurt devastated, I mean, I love that kid it hit home, when i heard it, it hit home, it’s sad.”
Jordan’s friend, 13-year-old Chris Cano Jr., told the Dallas Morning News, “it shouldn’t have happened to him.”
Cano’s father, Chris Cano Sr., who knew Jordan from when the boy was 6, told the newspaper, “It could have easily been my son. He said Jordan was “not a thug, and he had great parents.”
The school district issued a statement about Jordan’s death.
“Mesquite ISD’s deepest sympathies and prayers are with the family and friends of this young man who tragically lost his life late Saturday evening,” the school district said. “He was a good student who was very well liked by his teachers, coaches and his fellow students. The entire district — especially the staff and students of Mesquite High School — are mourning this terrible loss.”
The school district said it had counselors on hand to talk to students.
Fleener told the Dallas Morning News he had a hard time talking to adults and an even harder time talking to students about Jordan on Monday.
“I went from sad to sick to my stomach to angry to praying to asking why,” Fleener told the newspaper. “They needed to understand it was OK to have those feelings and that we were going to get through this together.”
Edwards’ family, through attorney Lee Merritt, had called for Officer Roy Oliver to be fired and arrested. They have also asked for all video, including those from body cameras, showing the shooting to be released immediately. Police have said those videos will not be made public until after the investigation into the shooting is completed.
After Oliver’s firing, Merritt issued a statement:
We are grateful the decision has been made to terminate the officer responsible for Jordan’s murder. Over the past 24 hours Chief Haber has made commendable strides toward justice. However, there remains a long road ahead. We anxiously await the officer’s identification and arrest for the crime of murder. The magnitude of his horrible actions cannot be overstated. We fully expect an equivalent response from those responsible for investigating and punishing the crime.
We also know that, although his actions were the most wicked and consequential, he was not the only officer responsible for dreadful behavior that evening. After Jordan’s two brothers, Vidal and Kevon, along with their two friends, were forced to experience this tragedy up close as occupants of the car, they were immediately treated as common criminals by other officers; manhandled, intimidated and arrested, while their brother lay dying in the front seat. The officers who extended this nightmare for those children ought to be properly reprimanded as well. Our family is working hard to deal with both the loss of our beloved Jordan and the lingering trauma it has caused our boys.
Jordan’s parents, Charmaine and Odell Edwards, appeared beside Merritt at a press conference Monday:
“We want this to stop happening. Every other modern nation in the world has figured out how to police their citizen without killing so many of them,” Merritt said on Facebook. “Specifically, the killing of UNARMED, BLACK, YOUTH and the common “justifications” offered are unacceptable and infuriating.
“We demand justice for #JordanEdwards. We demand a change,” Merritt said.
Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber held a press conference on Sunday and said he has spoken to Jordan Edwards’ family.
“We express our deep and sincere condolences to the family,” Haber said, according to KDFW-TV. “I have reached out and personally met and spoken with the parents and expressed my condolences.”
“On behalf of the entire Balch Springs Police Department, and the city of Balch Springs we express our deep, sincere condolences to the family,” he said. “We will continue to reach out to the parents and keep them informed as we move forward from this point,” Haber said.
5. Oliver Is Facing 1 Count of Murder & Is Being Held on $300,000 Bail
Roy Oliver is facing a single count of murder, according to a warrant signed Friday by a judge, the Dallas Morning News reports.
He turned himself in Friday night and is being held on $300,000 bail. He faces up to life in prison if found guilty.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office investigated the shooting, Balch Springs Police said.
The Public Integrity Unit of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s was also be investigating. District Attorney Faith Johnson issued a statement about the shooting on Monday:
The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Unit includes a specialized group of experienced attorneys and investigators. The Civil Rights Team responds to all officer involved shooting in Dallas County to conduct an impartial and independent investigation. As such, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the death of Jordan Edwards. We offer our sincere condolences to Jordan’s family and will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers as we move forward expeditiously, with a commitment to justice and transparency.
Attorney Lee Merritt told the Dallas Morning News he hopes the investigation will be objective since it is being handled by the county sheriff’s office and not internally.
He said, “The facts will bear out the truth and on behalf of the family we demand transparency with all facts and evidence involved. The family is calling on the community to stand with them, resolute in the demand for justice.”
Merritt said Edwards “was a student athlete who was loved by his family and peers alike. The family is truly devastated by this senseless killing and is calling on a thorough investigation, which should lead to the termination of the officer and criminal charges filed against him for his reckless conduct and disregard for life. Based on witness accounts of the incident, there simply was no justifiable and/or lawful reason for the officer to fire at an occupied vehicle.”