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Fired Balch Springs Officer Who Shot And Killed Jordan Edwards Faces Murder Charge

The fired Balch Springs police officer who shot and killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards has been charged with murder. A judge signed a warrant Friday afternoon for officer Roy Oliver's arrest.

The 37-year-old turned himself in to the Parker County Jail Friday night, and bond was set at $300,000. He was released after posting bond, KXAS-TV reported. 

In a statement announcing the warrant, the Dallas County Sheriff's Office cited evidence that suggested Oliver "intended to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death." If convicted, he would face up to life in prison, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Oliver was fired Tuesday for violating several departmental policies. The department has completed its internal review and leaves Oliver's fate up to Dallas County investigators. Oliver was hired in 2011.

Jordan's family released a statement through attorney Lee Merritt.

"Although this does not take away the excruciating pain caused by the loss of a son, brother, and friend, the announcement that the appropriate warrant has been issued for the arrest of Roy Oliver on the charge of murder has brought a bit of reprieve in a time of intense [mourning]," the statement reads. "This action brings hope that the justice system will bend against the overwhelming weight of our frustration."

Jordan, a freshman at Mesquite High School, and four other teenagers, including his brothers, were in a car as they left a house party Saturday night. Oliver was responding to a noise complaint. Oliver, who is white, grabbed his rifle and fired at the car. Jordan, who was black, was shot in the head. He was unarmed.

Jordan's family is preparing for his funeralSaturday morning. 

Admitting a mistake

Credit Parker County Sheriff's Office via AP
This photo provided by the Parker County Sheriff's Office shows Roy Oliver. Oliver, a police officer, faces a murder charge in the shooting of a teenager after being fired earlier in the week over the incident, authorities said.

Balch Springs police first said the car was backing up toward police at the scene "in an aggressive manner." But after review of police video, the police department admitted the vehicle was driving away as officers approached. The Balch Springs police chief  acknowledged he did not have all the facts before initially addressing the public Sunday.

“It is very important that the sheriff’s office and public integrity unit able to conduct their thorough investigation of this officer-involved shooting,” chief Jonathan Haber told reporters Tuesday. “My department will continue to be responsive, be transparent and accountable.”

A statement from the Edwards family released Tuesday evening expressed gratitude for the officer's termination. The family says Jordan's two brothers were in the car and experienced the trauma of watching their best friend die. In the statement, the family says police treated the brothers as criminals and arrested them. 

Rev. Ronald Wright, with a group called Justice Seekers Texas, was also at Tuesday's press conference with the police chief. He supports the chief and department, saying they're setting the right example.

"When we get these types of incidents that happened all over the United States, Balch Springs has reacted immediately to it and took action the way it should have," Wright said.

The KERA Radio story: The family of Jordan Edwards releases a statement after he was killed by a police officer.

What happened Saturday night

Officers were responding to a call around 11 p.m. Saturday about underage drinking in the 12300 block of Baron Drive. Two officers initially answered the call, and Oliver was the second on the scene, said Pedro Gonzalez, a police department spokesman. They went into the house to find the owner but then heard gunshots outside, causing a "chaotic scene with numerous people running away," Gonzalez said.

Officers left to investigate the gunshots and confronted a vehicle that was backing down the road. Despite verbal commands, the car then pulled forward and started driving away from officers. Oliver shot his rifle at the car, striking and killing Edwards through the passenger's side window. He was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead. No officers were injured. 

Watch the Tuesday news conference, courtesy of CBS DFW

The police chief has repeatedly offered his condolences to the family.

"On behalf of the entire Balch Springs Police Department, and the city of Balch Springs we express our deep, sincere condolences to the family," Haber said Sunday. "We will continue to reach out to the parents and keep them informed as we move forward from this point."

Statement from police regarding the incident

Statements from the Edwards Family

The Edwards family released a statement on Tuesday evening, saying they were grateful for the officer's termination, but they hope he will be arrested and charged for murder. The family says there "remains a long road ahead."

In a separate statement, the family thanked everyone for their condolences "as we mourn the tremendous loss our family and community has suffered."

They described Jordan as "a loving child, with a humble and sharing spirit." Jordan was close to his brothers, who witnessed his "violent" and "senseless" murder. As the family prepares for the funeral, they said they don't condone any violence toward Balch Springs police or other law enforcement agencies. 

Friends have described Edwards as a good student and popular athlete. Edwards and the four teenagers with him decided to leave what was becoming an unruly party as they heard gunshots ring out and police were arriving, the family's attorney Lee Merritt said, citing what witnesses had told lawyers. 

The Dallas County district attorney and sheriff are conducting the criminal investigation. District Attorney Faith Johnson's office released a statement Monday:

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Unit includes a specialized group of experienced attorneys and investigators. The Civil Rights Team responds to all officer-involved shooting in Dallas County to conduct an impartial and independent investigation.
As such, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the death of Jordan Edwards. We offer our sincere condolences to Jordan’s family and will continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers as we move forward expeditiously, with a commitment to justice and transparency.

The Dallas County Medical examiner ruled Edwards' death a homicide.

Watch the press conference Lee Merritt held Monday

Merritt said he hopes the investigation will be objective because it's not being conducted internally. 

Merritt also represents a Fort Worth family that gained attention from a viral video in December. The video showed a white police officer forcefully wrestling a black mother to the ground after she called police to complain about how a neighbor was treating her young son.

A look at Oliver’s personnel records

The Associated Press reports:

Records show that Oliver was briefly suspended in 2013 following a complaint about his conduct while serving as a witness in a drunken-driving case.

Personnel records from the Balch Springs Police Department obtained by The Associated Press show Oliver was suspended for 16 hours in December 2013 after the Dallas County District Attorney's Office filed the complaint. Oliver also was ordered to take training courses in anger management and courtroom demeanor and testimony.

The personnel records also included periodic evaluations that noted at least one instance when Oliver was reprimanded for being "disrespectful to a civilian on a call." That evaluation, dated Jan. 27, 2017, called the reprimand an isolated incident and urged Oliver to be mindful of his leadership role in the department.

The complaint from the prosecutor's office said the office had a hard time getting Oliver to attend the trial, he was angry he had to be there, he used vulgar language that caused an assistant district attorney to send a female intern out of the room, and he used profanity during his testimony.

"In an email from one of the prosecutors he states you were a 'scary person to have in our workroom,'" then-Balch Springs Police Chief Ed Morris wrote in the suspension findings.

Oliver joined the Balch Springs department in 2011 after being an officer with the Dalworthington Gardens Police Department for almost a year. A statement from Dalworthington Gardens officials on Wednesday included details of that and previous intermittent employment as a dispatcher and public works employee between 1999 and 2004.

He received an award for "meritorious conduct" as a dispatcher and there were no documented complaints or disciplinary action in either his work as a public safety officer or dispatcher, according to the statement. Between his employment as a dispatcher and officer in the Dallas suburb, Oliver was in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of sergeant while serving two tours in Iraq and earning various commendations. He served for two years in the Texas National Guard reserves through 2012.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.