In his first detailed account of what happened, former Balch Springs policeman Roy Oliver, 37, said he was justified for opening fire into a moving car and killing a passenger, Jordan Edwards, 15.
Oliver made the statements Tuesday in a 22-page filing as a response to the wrongful death lawsuit brought against him by Edwards’ parents.
On April 29, 2017, Oliver said he was the back-up officer assisting a colleague as they responded to a call of intoxicated teenagers having a party.
While speaking to teenagers inside the house, Oliver said he and everyone heard six to 10 gunshots outside, then saw a fleeing black Chevrolet Impala. Oliver ran to his patrol vehicles and retrieved his patrol rifle.
Despite commands to stop, the driver of the Impala refused to, according to Oliver’s filing.
"Oliver sees [his colleague, Ofc. Tyler] Gross move his weapon towards the rear passenger-side window. Oliver hears violence / breaking glass at Gross' location; and in fear for himself and others, Oliver fires his weapon into the car (3-5 shots) from approximately 10' to 15' and into the closed glass windows,” the filing states.
"The car was right beside the officers when the shots were fired,” it continues and Oliver said, "...he specifically denies that he unjustifiably assaulted, killed [Jordan Edwards], anyone; and further, Officer Oliver denies that he violated anyone's constitutional rights."
Jordan, a front seat passenger, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head. He was in the car with his two brothers and two friends.
Balch Springs police initially defended Oliver’s actions, but quickly backtracked and fired the policeman.
Oliver said it is all captured on the bodycam he wore that night. Oliver’s response said he is considering asking to have his trial moved out of Dallas County.
The wrongful death complaint was filed against Oliver and the City of Balch Springs in federal court on May 5 for what it said was Oliver’s use of excessive and deadly force resulting in the unlawful shooting death of Edwards.
The wrongful death suit alleges the City of Balch Springs failed “to properly train, supervise, screen, discipline, transfer, counsel or otherwise control officers who are known, or who should have been known, to engage in the use of excessive force and/or deadly force, including those officers repeatedly accused of such acts.”
According to the lawsuit, an officer during the incident commented: “This n----r doesn't know his (expletive) left from his right.”
Oliver’s response also said that he “understands that one or more of the occupants has associated with, affiliated with, participated with, and/or been a member of a gang,” adding that “one or more of the occupants handle a firearm” that night. The document also said, “Oliver understands that one or more of the occupants had gunshot residue” on them.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the Edwards family, blasted Oliver’s response and those claims.
“That is the tried and true method for police officers getting off for committing murder without any real explanation,” Merritt said in a statement to WFAA. “Their facts have veered, and they are completely fabricated, and completely inconsistent with the investigation. This is the stuff of fairy tales.”
Merritt also denies that any of the occupants were gang members, as well as denies the presence of a gun in the car.
“A gun in the car? Don’t you think we would have heard about this before,” Merritt said. “It’s been over 40 years in the state of Texas that an officer has been convicted because of an inherent acceptance of claims by law enforcement officers, even when they are unsubstantiated.”
Besides the civil lawsuit, Oliver also faces a simultaneous criminal case against him. On Monday, a Dallas County Grand Jury indicted the fired policeman for one count of murder and four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon by a public servant for firing his rifle into the car full of teenagers. No trial date is set for the criminal case, but if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
"Hopefully, it's a message to the bad officers,” said Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson during a press conference on Monday, “And that is, if you do wrong, we will prosecute you."
Speaking briefly after the announcement were the father and stepmother of Jordan Edwards, who have repeatedly called for justice. They say they remain cautiously optimistic.
"It makes us feel hopeful,” said Charmaine Edwards. “We're still gonna sit on the edge of our seats wondering what's going to happen when you go to trial."