Texas officer faces murder charges in shooting of black teen | News | DW | 06.05.2017
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Texas officer faces murder charges in shooting of black teen

Former US police officer Roy Oliver has turned himself in after being issued an arrest warrant for the fatal shooting of Jordan Edwards. Oliver fired a rifle at a car full of teenagers in Balch Springs, killing Edwards.

The Dallas County Sheriff's Office announced in its warrant for Roy Oliver on Friday that the former police officer would face murder charges for fatally shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.

The warrant cited evidence suggesting Oliver "intended to cause serious bodily injury and commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death."

Oliver on Friday turned himself in at the Parker County Jail in Weatherford, about 95 miles (150 km) west of Dallas, before posting a $300,000 (272,800 euros) bond. Oliver was dismissed from the Balch Springs police force on Tuesday, three days after he had killed Edwards.

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Officer opened fire on car full of teens

According to police reports, Oliver and another officer at the scene were responding to a disturbance last Saturday in the predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood of Balch Springs, around 15 miles southeast of Dallas. The officers said they had heard two gunshots ring in the area. 

Edwards, along with his two brothers and two other teenagers, were driving away from an unruly house party, when they crossed paths with Oliver and his police partner. The officers said they had ordered the car to stop as it pulled away before they opened fire.

Initial reports suggested the car was reversing towards Oliver, prompting him to shoot. However, Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber told reporters on Tuesday that police body camera footage from the scene contradicted that version of events, leading to Oliver's dismissal and his subsequent arrest warrant.

The police department said Oliver was dismissed for violating department policies in the shooting, although it declined to give further detail into precisely which policies were breached.

The sheriff's spokeswoman Melinda Urbina said the investigation into the shooting "will continue and does not conclude with the arrest."

Meanwhile, personal records showed that Oliver, a former US army sergeant, had previously been suspended from the force and ordered to attend courses in anger management and courtroom demeanor. In an email tied to the suspension findings, then-Balch Springs Police Chief Ed Morris said that Oliver was a "scary person to have in our workroom."

Lee Merritt, the attorney for Edwards' family, said he would issue a statement later on Friday, local time, following a private wake and funeral for the teen. He also urged supporters to refrain from holding any protests until after the teenager was laid to rest.

Racial biases among US officers

Oliver's dismissal on Tuesday came on the same day news broke of the Justice Department's decision to not charge two white officers in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man, last year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Protesters saw the shooting in Baton Rouge and Balch Springs as a racially motivated death at the hands of police, similar to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland. Protests took place across the US in the wake of the killings of black men by predominately white officers, further stoking tensions over perceived racism within police ranks.

Amnesty International USA said the Sterling case shows the "dire need for a nationwide review of laws governing when and how police should use deadly force."

dm/jlw (AP, Reuters)

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