DALLAS - The fate of ex-Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver now rests in the hands of the jury.
Jurors heard compelling closing arguments from prosecutors and the defense Monday morning. The began deliberating shortly after.
Oliver is accused of shooting and killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards as he was leaving a party last April.
First Assistant DA Mike Snipes brought some people in the courtroom to tears as he talked about the bullet that ripped through Jordan and how his last words were to help his friends and brothers. Snipes said: “He could have been president of the United States, and Roy Oliver didn’t give him a chance."
Prosecutors called Oliver a “trigger happy cop.” They said he and his partner were never in danger. The other officer even testified he never felt threatened.
“He shouldn’t be in a grave right now like he is,” Snipes said. “And he put him there.”
"We acknowledge and respect police and everything they do to protect and to serve,” said prosecutor George Lewis. “But when we have police officers like the defendant who hurt innocent people, that’s where it has to stop.”
“He shot five times into the night. But for the grace of God, these three kids might have been dead too,” Sipes said while pointing at Jordan’s brothers and friends who were with him that night. “Think about that for a second.”
Defense lawyers said Oliver was protecting his partner when he fired into the moving car. He perceived a threat and had the right to defend himself and his partner.
"The facts in this case must be reviewed through Officer Oliver’s perspective and no one else," attorney Miles Brissette said.
Defense attorney Jim Lane told Oliver to stand and face the jury as he reminded jurors of Oliver’s military and public service, saying he “wanted to be a protector.”
Not ignoring the Edwards’ family pain, Brissette reminded jurors that sympathy cannot factor in their deliberations.
“The sympathy itself must stay. It can’t go into the jury box, and it can’t go into the case itself,” he said. “Because if it does, then this case is without its justification or meaning.”
Lane also offered sympathy to the Edwards family while telling jurors they must stick to the facts.
“Not the facts that we know now. Not the facts that we should’ve known. Because we know exactly what these officers knew,” Lane said. “We have to look at it from the eyes of that officer the moment he made the decision. And I’m gonna ask you to find him, this soldier, this cop, this family man not guilty.”
Brissette told jurors Oliver is not guilty because what happened that night was not his fault.
“They knew there were officers out there. They knew who had the flashlights and who had the flashing lights,” Brissette said. “They made a decision not to stop. As tragic as that is, that put this to the viewpoint of Officer Oliver to go through this.”
Lewis told jurors during close Oliver may have been on duty as a police officer, but his actions cannot be excused.
“When they start hurting our citizens on our streets, 15-, 16-year-old young men coming from a party doing nothing wrong, that’s when you have to hold them accountable,” Lewis said.
The defense’s Bob Gill told jurors by law that even if Roy Oliver was wrong, he was right.
“Roy has a right to defend Tyler Gross against a perceived danger against an apparent danger, even if it wasn’t a real danger, as long as that’s what he reasonably believed at the time he made the decision,” Gill said. “It doesn’t matter that looking back on it in hindsight we’d all make a different decision now. “We have to look at it how Roy Oliver saw it at the time. And what he saw was a significant threat to his partner.”
But Snipes told the jury Oliver was a threat to others as he talked about previous bad acts Oliver has done or is accused of.
“This guy is an angry, out-of-control walking bomb,” Snipes said. “A time bomb that went off on April 29, 2017.”
Snipes showed the shooting frame by frame to jurors. He said when Oliver fired his patrol rifle five times, he stole the teenager’s life.
“You took that away from him. You murdered him. It could have been five murders,” Snipes said pointing at Oliver. “Ladies and gentlemen, the law and the evidence in this case is a verdict of guilty on all three counts.”
Oliver faces a murder charge and two counts of aggravated assault because of the two front seat occupants.
Jurors will be allowed to consider murder, a lesser manslaughter charge or aggravated assault by a public servant while deliberating.
Jurors deliberated until 8 p.m. Monday night. They will resume deliberations Tuesday morning at 9 a.m.