Jurors in Roy Oliver's trial handed down the rarest of verdicts on Tuesday: a police officer guilty of murder. Oliver had been an officer with the Balch Springs, Texas police department, on a call to break up a party, when he shot into a car filled with unarmed Black teenagers. Initially the police claimed the car was posing a threat to the officers, but camera footage showed the car was driving away from the officers, and the kids were unarmed.
15-year-old Jordan Edwards was killed instantly when one of Oliver's bullets hit him in the back of the head.
Jurors watched videos and detailed frame-by-frame comparisons that showed the officers peacefully responding to a house party before gunshots rang into the night, prompting them to dash from the house up the street. They heard Oliver’s partner yell for the car driven by Edwards’ brother, Vidal Allen, to stop as it slowly backed onto the intersecting street, and they saw Oliver fire five rounds into the vehicle as it was moving away from the officers.
And that footage likely played a large role in the jury’s incredibly rare guilty verdict, handed down Tuesday after more than 13 hours of deliberation. Oliver was convicted of murder and found not guilty of two counts of aggravated assault.
It's incredibly difficult and rare to get a police officer to even be charged with a crime in an officer-involved shooting, let alone a conviction. Public sympathy for their job is so high, and public perception of the danger they face is so outsized, most people find it hard to discount an officer who says they shot because felt their life was in danger. Reluctance to bring charges results in virtually consequence-free abuse for the officers.
Not in this case, thankfully. If there were true justice in the world, though, Jordan Edwards would still be alive and playing football and going to school. We live in America, though, where cops have been free to shoot unarmed Black kids with impunity. So, we will take the next best thing, in the form of a murder conviction for the cop who shot him.