DALLAS (AP) — A white former police officer convicted of murder for shooting an unarmed black teenager is a good man and a devoted father, his mother testified Wednesday as she urged jurors to impose a lenient prison sentence.
Linda Oliver spoke during the sentencing phase of the trial for her son, former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver. He was convicted Tuesday in the 2017 death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was killed when Oliver fired his gun into a car full of black teenagers leaving a house party near Dallas.
Oliver faces between five and 99 years in prison.
His mother asked jurors for a five-year sentence, saying her young grandson needs his father’s support.
“He needs his father’s love. He needs his father’s income. He needs his father’s guidance,” she said.
In a rare guilty verdict in a police shooting case, the Dallas County jurors were not swayed by Oliver’s claims that he was protecting his partner when he fired into the vehicle. His partner told jurors he didn’t fear for his life.
Gasps echoed around the courtroom as the verdict was read Tuesday. Edwards’ relatives sobbed and hugged prosecutors, waved their hands in the air and proclaimed “Thank you, Jesus!”
Oliver was found not guilty on two lesser charges of aggravated assault stemming from the shooting.
The jury, which features two black members out of 12 jurors and two alternates, is now hearing testimony as they consider a sentence.
They heard from Edwards’ father late Wednesday, shortly after the sentencing phase began. He said his son always had a smile on his face and dreamed of playing football at Alabama.
The shooting occurred after Oliver and his partner responded to a report of underage drinking at a house party in Balch Springs in April 2017. Police initially said the vehicle carrying Edwards and his friends backed up toward officers “in an aggressive manner,” but police later admitted that bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached.
Investigators said no guns were found in the vehicle. Oliver was fired days after the shooting.
It’s extremely rare for police officers to be tried and convicted of murder for shootings that occurred while they are on duty. Only six non-federal police officers have been convicted of murder in such cases — and four of those convictions were overturned — since 2005, according to data compiled by criminologist and Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson.
Stinson, who tracks such cases nationwide , told The Associated Press on Tuesday that to secure a murder conviction, the facts of a case have to be “so over the top and bizarre” that the officer’s actions can’t be rationally explained.