Prosecutors accused a white, former Texas police officer who fired his assault rifle into a car full of unarmed, black teenagers -- killing one of them -- of being “trigger happy,” at the start of his murder trial on Thursday.
“The defendant, Roy Oliver, was angry. He was out of control. He was dangerous. ... He was trigger happy. And he was completely, totally unreasonable and out of line,” Dallas County first assistant District Attorney Michael Snipes told the jury in his opening statement, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Oliver, 38, is on trial for killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, a high school freshman, in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs on April 29, 2017. He also faces two counts of aggravated assault.
The killing took place after Oliver and his partner, Tyler Gross, responded to a call of intoxicated teenagers and found a house party in full swing. As Oliver and Gross were inside the house clearing out party-goers, the officers heard shots fired outside.
Video footage from Oliver’s body camera shows what happened next.
Oliver went from laughing and joking with teens in the house, to grabbing the assault rifle from his patrol car, running up the street and firing multiple rounds in quick succession into a car containing Edwards, his two brothers and two friends.
After the shooting, the teens drove for about a block before they saw smoke coming from Edwards’s head, Lee Merritt, an attorney for Jordan’s family, told the Washington Post shortly after the shooting. Edwards was pronounced dead at the hospital, killed instantly by a bullet through his brain.
Oliver claimed he fired to protect Gross, his partner, who attempted to stop the car. Gross had smashed the rear passenger window in the car as it was maneuvering to pull away. As the car started moving forward, Oliver opened fire.
After the shooting, Oliver’s body camera captured him telling Gross the teens were “trying to hit you” with the car. But Gross testified on Thursday that he was not afraid of being struck. "I was not in fear at that point," Gross said.
Snipes, the lead prosecutor, said on Thursday that none of the teens at the party had been drinking and that Edwards, his brothers and his friends had done nothing wrong that night and were simply trying to leave when police showed up.
"He was an innocent child doing nothing wrong that night," Snipes said.
Immediately after the shooting, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber said the car had reversed “aggressively” toward the officers, but later acknowledged that Oliver’s body camera video showed the opposite -- that it was moving forward and away from Gross when Oliver fired.
Three days after the killing, Haber fired Oliver for violating departmental guidelines, according to the Washington Post.
“After reviewing the findings I have made the decision to terminate Roy Oliver’s employment with the Balch Springs Police Department,” Chief Haber said at the time. “My department will continue to be responsive, transparent and accountable.”
Vidal Allen, Edward’s step-brother, was driving the car the night.
Allen testified Thursday that he didn't think Gross was a police officer because Gross was yelling profanities and he was blinded by the light from the flashlight Gross was shining into the car. Then he heard the gunshots and panicked, he said.
A block away, other police officers stopped the vehicle and Allen pleaded with them to help his brother, he testified. As Allen was handcuffed and put in the backseat of a police car, he asked the officer to pray with him for Edwards. That officer did, Allen said.
"I just prayed that my brother would be OK," he said.
[Photos: Dallas County District Attorney’s Office]