A white Texas ex-police officer was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the shooting death of a black teen, a rare case of a US officer convicted for using deadly force.
A jury found Roy Oliver guilty of murder Tuesday in the killing of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. Oliver shot Edwards in April 2017, when he was a Dallas area police officer. Oliver was subsequently fired from the force.
The same jury on Wednesday handed the 38-year-old Oliver his prison sentence.
It was an exceedingly rare instance of a police officer being incarcerated for a high-profile questionable shooting, following a string of similar cases that stoked outrage but often lead to acquittals or no prosecutions at all.
Oliver had fired five bullets into a car full of teens, striking Edwards and killing him instantly.
Oliver, who was with the police force of Balch Springs – a suburb in the Texas-Fort Worth metroplex – had been responding to a call of underage drinking at a party. Edwards and his friends had been driving away from the event.
At trial, Oliver had argued that he thought his partner was in danger, because the car had been driving towards him.
But the ex-cop’s partner contradicted that testimony with his own, saying he did not feel threatened at the time of the shooting.
Oliver’s conviction made him eligible for up to 99 years in prison. The victim’s family expressed disappointment that the final sentence had not been longer.
“We’re thankful for the verdict that we received. Although we wanted more years, this is a start for us, and we can get some kind of closure,” Jordan’s stepmother, Charmaine Edwards, told reporters on Wednesday.
The jury deliberated for just two days before returning the guilty verdict.
Similar outcomes in other police shooting cases have proven mostly elusive, illustrating the difficulty of prosecuting officers in deadly encounters where split-second decisions are made.
Recent questionable cop shootings, often accompanied by official or eyewitness video footage, have fueled outrage across the United States and given rise to the Black Lives Matter activist movement.
Edwards family attorney Daryl Washington said Tuesday the teen’s murder case was “about every African American, unarmed African American, who has been killed and who has not gotten justice.”