DALLAS - Jurors saw body camera video as the murder trial for a former Balch Springs police officer accused of killing a teenager got underway Thursday morning.
Roy Oliver, who is white, is accused of killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards as he was leaving a party in 2017. Investigators said Oliver was on duty when he shot into a car full of black teens, fatally striking Jordan.
A jury of five men and seven women got to watch the video from Oliver’s body camera. At times, some jurors could be seen weeping as Dallas County First Asst. District Attorney Mike Snipes laid out the state’s case
Meanwhile, Oliver’s former partner, Officer Tyler Gross, testified about the playful atmosphere of the party.
Officer Gross said he and his partner were talking to the host about not having such a big party when they heard what sounded like gunfire outside. The video shows them running out to investigate.
However, Gross told jurors he didn’t fear for this life and never felt the need to fire his weapon.
During opening statements, Snipes described Jordan as an innocent child who was doing nothing wrong. He said Oliver was “trigger happy” and angry.
“Police officers have very dangerous jobs. They have to make split-second decisions. They have to make decisions that are extremely important," Snipes said. "We stand beside police officers every single day in this courthouse. Some of my best friends are police officers. Most of them do an outstanding job and I'm proud to serve with them. But that is not what happened on the night of April 29, 2017. The defendant, Roy Oliver, was angry and was out of control.”
The prosecutor told jurors the body camera evidence will be extremely important in the case. He said it will show the officer was in no danger and that no reasonable officer would have engaged with the car.
“That conduct resulted in the murder and death of an innocent 15-year-old child who did not have to die,” Snipes said.
In Oliver’s body cam video, teens could be seen leaving the house party. The mood was light. The officers were inside the home when they heard shots fired outside.
Gross then gave directions of shots as he requested backup and went to the area where the gunfire came from. He tried to get the car with Jordan in it to stop.
“He was backing away from me at that point. It was going slow. About walking pace,” Gross said. “I struck the window just to continue to get the attention of the driver. I wasn’t necessarily trying to break it out. I just wanted them to stop.”
Gross told Snipes that he was never in fear for his life or felt the need to fire his weapon.
As Gross was yelling verbal commands for the car to stop, body cam video shows Oliver opening fire on the car. Oliver said the car was trying to hit Gross.
On the witness stand, Vidal Allen talked about the night he saw his step brother, Jordan, shot and killed by Oliver as they were trying to leave the house party.
“I grabbed his head and I rubbed it to see for any bullet holes because I seen a whole bunch of blood,” he recalled. “But I didn’t know where it was coming from.”
Jordan’s other brother, Kavon Edwards, testified he watched his brother die.
“I noticed he was leaning over the center console,” he recalled. “And when we tapped him he didn't respond.”
Jordan’s stepmother, Charmaine Edwards, also testified Thursday morning. Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson led the examination, focusing on Jordan's character.
“He always strived to be better, do better in grades and football. Even if he had a bad grade he could tell me he was going to do better,” Charmaine said.
Johnson’s participation underscores the importance of this case to this district attorney. She consoled Jordan’s stepmom as she identified a picture of her son after he was dead. Johnson stood in front of Oliver with that photo.
Defense attorney Bob Gill did not cross-examine Jordan’s stepmother or give opening statements but did file several more last-minute motions in an effort to delay the trial. Judge Brandon Birmingham denied those motions.
The defense plans to argue that Oliver fired his weapon to protect his partner, who he believed was about to be hit. In the body camera video, he could be heard asking Gross if he was okay.
“He was about to hit you,” Oliver said.
The defense gave no opening statement, so they did not give any indication of how thy might defend Oliver except from what they said before the trial started.
The judge dismissed the jury for the day shortly before 4 p.m. Testimony will continue on Friday.