Ex-Texas police officer sentenced to 15 years for murder of unarmed black teen Jordan Edwards

PHOTO: Fired Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver, testifies to the jury with defense attorney Jim Lane during the sixth day of his trial at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Aug. 23, 2018. PlayRose Baca/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool
WATCH Ex-Texas police officer sentenced to 15 years for murder of Jordan Edwards

A former Texas police officer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the 2017 shooting death of an unarmed black teenager -- and the victim's family said on Thursday that although they believe the punishment was too light "it will feel like life to him."

Ex-Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver, who is white, also was fined $10,000 during his sentencing Wednesday, a day after a jury convicted him of murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.

Speaking with reporters at a press conference late Wednesday, the teen’s stepmother, Charmaine Edwards, said she had hoped for a sentence of "25 to 30 [years] or more."

"We're thankful for the verdict that we received, although we wanted more years," she said. "This is a start for us, and we can get some kind of closure. So we're thankful. He actually can see life again after 15 years. And that's not enough because Jordan can't see life again."

PHOTO: Jordan Edwards, 15, appears in this screen grab from a WFAA video.WFAA
Jordan Edwards, 15, appears in this screen grab from a WFAA video.

During a news conference on Thursday, she said, "Look at the bright side: Although it wasn't what we wanted, he got enough years where he can't walk. And although it wasn't what we wanted, those 15 years, or however many years he does, it's gonna feel like life to him. He's ripped away from his family."

She said Jordan was a bright kid and a football player at Mesquite High School in Balch Springs, about 15 miles southeast of Dallas.

She said that following Oliver's sentencing, she and her husband, Odell, went into Jordan's bedroom, sat on his bed and told their son, "We did it."

She said that if she could tell Oliver anything, it would be, "His evilness and all his character traits that led up to this caused us a lifetime of pain. He literally tore our family apart."

A Dallas County jury deliberated for nearly five hours before recommending the sentence on Wednesday evening, ending a long and emotional trial over the honor student's death.

PHOTO: Fifteen-year-old Jordan Edwards was shot and killed April 29, 2017 by former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver in Texas.WFAA
Fifteen-year-old Jordan Edwards was shot and killed April 29, 2017 by former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver in Texas.

Oliver, who joined the force in 2011, will be eligible for parole after seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Asked during a news conference on Thursday if she saw the verdict as justice for her son, Charmaine Edwards said, "Not completely. It's a start, but it's still a long way to go."

Oliver's conviction paves the way for the Edwards family to move forward with a civil suit against Oliver and the city of Balch Springs, said the family's attorney Daryl Washington.

"Now that the criminal proceedings have passed, Oliver will not be able to plead the Fifth," Washington said, "He will have to answer questions and we will get more information."

Charmaine Edwards said the verdict could send a message to other families across the country whose loved ones have been killed in police shootings that "change can come."

"He didn't deserve to die," Charmaine Edwards said of her son. "He had a bright future and we hope that the little bit of justice that he did receive is enough to give other mothers and fathers that are in our position hope, something to look forward to."

Odell Edwards said the trial was about his son and how he died.

"We don't get into politics," he said Thursday. "We just wanted justice for our son."

He said he will continue to convey to his other children to respect the police.

"We're still teaching 'em that all cops aren't bad like Roy Oliver," he said.

Charmaine Edwards added, "My view on it is that they are supposed to protect and serve."

"However, what has been displayed around the world is not protect and serve. It's basically like, they kill someone, it's justified, they get off," she said. "That's what we've seen and if that is the behavior that is going to continue to be displayed, our kids don't have a future at all."

Washington celebrated the conviction and said he hoped it would bring on a sense of closure.

"The Dallas DA's office did something that has not been done around this country," Washington said. "They had the courage to take on the bad police officer, and, because of that, that in itself is a victory.

"We believe that little boys and little girls are going to be able to go to teenage parties and feel like if they're in danger they can go to police officers and not run away from police officers."

He said he'd also hoped for a harsher punishment for Oliver, but that convictions in such cases are rare and should be celebrated.

Fewer than 90 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter for such shootings since 2005, according to research by The Associated Press. Less than half were convicted or pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

"We know that there are parents all over this country who would love to see the person who took the life of their kid spend the next 15 years in prison," Washington said. "This is the beginning, and we hope soon that it will be the end to all the violence that we have."

Oliver allegedly opened fire on a car full of teenagers on the night of April 29, 2017, killing Jordan, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. The officer was fired three days later.

Oliver and his partner were responding to reports of underage drinking at a house party in Balch Springs when they saw the teens pulling off, according to testimony at the trial.

Oliver testified that he opened fire because he thought his partner, Tyler Gross, was in danger of being run over and that, before the shooting, he was inside the house and that he believed he heard gunfire outside.

"I had to make a decision," Oliver told jurors. "This car is about to hit my partner. I had no other option."

Body-cam and dashcam footage showed the car was moving away from the officers when Oliver opened fire, contradicting his initial claim that it was backing up toward Gross.

The officer's attorney said he plans to file an appeal, citing multiple errors within the trial.

"This evening we gave notice of appeal. We want to appeal the jury's verdict at both the guilt, innocence and punishment phase of the trial," attorney Bob Gill said Wednesday. "We believe that there are some errors made during the trial that are significant errors and need to be explored on appeal."

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