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Texas police officer convicted in murder of Black teen

By staff

Dallas, TX – On Aug. 28, a Dallas County jury convicted former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver of murder for the April 29, 2017 shooting death of Jordan Edwards. The jury will reconvene tomorrow to consider sentencing. Oliver faces a punishment of five to 99 years in prison or life. Under Texas law he had the option of having the judge or the jury assess his punishment, and he selected the jury.

Oliver shot Edwards four times with a rifle while Edwards was a passenger in a car that was leaving a party in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs.

Oliver maintained from the beginning that he only fired into the car because he feared for the safety of his fellow officers, and that the car was driving towards another officer when he fired. He said the same in his testimony during the trial. Witnesses, including the other cops, disputed this claim, and body camera footage showed the car was moving away from the officers when Oliver fired.

Olinka Green, an organizer with the North Texas Action Committee, compared the Jordan Edwards case to the case of Emmitt Till. “August 28, 1955. 14-year-old Emmitt Till was brutally murdered because of racism and evil,” Green said. “Two white men were found not guilty of his murder by a jury of white men. Today, August 28, 2018 white police officer Roy Oliver was found guilty of murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. 63 years of waiting for justice to be served in both cases. Today a small answer and a prayer was granted in the last case. Justice can be delayed but it never denied.”

North Texas Action Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Miller added, “We as a community must continue our fight from here. Yes, Oliver has been convicted, but we cannot let out a sigh of relief even if the jury decides to sentence him to the maximum sentence of 99 years, because this fight goes well beyond Jordan Edwards and Roy Oliver. This is a struggle that needs to be continually held against the racist power structures that allow police officers like Oliver to wield the power to take the lives of Black and brown people.”

Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott also appeared to welcome the conviction, writing on Twitter, “White Texas police officer found guilty of murder for fatally shooting black teen in car. This life should never have been lost.”

The prosecution was led by Dallas County First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes. Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson also participated directly in some aspects of the prosecution. District attorneys in Texas are generally elected, but Faith Johnson was appointed to the post by Governor Abbott in 2016 to finish out the term of a district attorney who had resigned.

Dan Sullivan, a Dallas lawyer who says he has been involved in protests against police brutality for many years, said he found Abbott's comments remarkable. “If you had told me five years ago that in 2018 the Republican governor of Texas would be welcoming the murder conviction of a police officer I'd never have believed you.”

Sullivan continued, “Of course we still have a long way to go, but the fact that Texas Republicans have finally taken seriously the police murder of a Black child is stunning. And it is absolutely a response to Black Lives Matter, which has really caused a crisis in some political circles. Don't let anyone ever tell you protests can't work.”

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