Holland linked this morning in Leading Off to former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver’s 22-page response to a wrongful death suit filed against him by Jordan Edwards’ parents. It made me angry because 1) it doesn’t really add up, and 2) it will probably be enough to get him acquitted. It uses all the right words.
First off, Oliver lied in the immediate aftermath of his shooting of the unarmed 15-year-old Edwards, saying the car Edwards was in was backing aggressively toward him and another officer, Tyler Gross. Bodycam footage showed otherwise — the exact opposite, in fact. So let’s just say his credibility is shaky.
But even if you absolutely believe Oliver on every point, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. A few observations and questions:
• Oliver says he heard six to 10 gunshots, saw a fleeing black Impala, then ran to his car to get his patrol rifle. He’s already got a sidearm — why immediately go to get his rifle?
• According to his statement: “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.”
This section, to me, is the Get Out of Jail Free card. We already know from court records that Gross (who has apparently escaped any consequences) used his own gun to break the back passenger window. Oliver doesn’t contradict that, but he words it in a way that has worked so far in these cases: “hears violence”; “in fear for himself and others.”
Here is my problem with that, beyond the dog-whistle language:
OK, he’s 10 to 15 feet away. Probably even closer at the beginning because the car is driving away from him. So, from that distance he can’t actually see what’s going on — that his partner has broken the window with his own gun — but he can see well enough to shoot up to five rounds through a closed window?
• Oliver’s response says he “understands that one or more of the occupants has associated with, affiliated with, participated with, and/or been a member of a gang,” and that he “understands that one or more of the occupants had gunshot residue” on them.
Does he know? No. He “understands.” It’s a sneaky way of getting an opinion to sound like a fact and a way to impeach Jordan Edwards’ character without having to even use Edwards. Like: OK, maybe Jordan was a good kid, but he was with a bunch of thugs, right? I mean I heard they were gang bangers, probably.
By the strictest definition, I have “associated with, affiliated with, participated with, and/or been a member of a gang.” You probably have, too. It’s insanely broad and where that allegation ends — “been a member” — is about a million miles away from where it begins — “associated with.” Basically: has ever known a gang member. It’s all meant to scare a white juror.
Just working through the logic of those statements is taxing. Even if one of the kids in the car was a full-fledged, very active member of a gang, how could Oliver have known that? He couldn’t see into the car. And if there was a gang member in the car, how is that an automatic death sentence? Because I have a hard time believing that Oliver shot into the car to merely wound, or that he possesses the almost superhuman accuracy to pull off such a shot. And Oliver doesn’t say that there was a gun in the car and certainly not in plain view, just that “he understands” that one of the other kids had handled one that night. First off: so? How is that punishable by death? And how could he have known that before? That’s some sort of Minority Report police work. None of it makes any sense.
Oliver’s lawyers are also trying to get the case moved out of Dallas County. If they are successful — say it ends up in East Texas somewhere — and he sticks to this story, I can see it working. And that is frustrating to me.