Civil Rights leaders and others reacted with a sense of relief – if only temporary – after a Texas jury sentenced a former police officer to 15 years in prison Wednesday for the shooting death of an unarmed African American teen in a Dallas suburb.
“The child murdering cop just got 15 years in prison … he’ll likely serve all 15,” said activist Shaun King. “It doesn’t bring Jordan [Edwards] back, but it’s the closest thing to justice we’ve seen.”
A day earlier when the same jury found former Police Officer Roy Oliver guilty, King said it was an “answer to our prayers.”
“A bittersweet moment for his family and for all of us who’ve fought non-stop for justice,” King wrote on Twitter. “We’d rather Jordan be alive, but this was so important.”
Journalist Jamil Smith noted a connection from Jordan to Emmett Till.
“I look at his face and see Emmett Till, lynched 63 years ago today. This story didn’t end in the typical fashion, though,” Smith said. “Oliver was convicted. I hate that this news is so surprising.”
The jury deliberated for 12 hours before deciding the fate of Oliver, the former Balch Springs, Texas officer. In addition to the prison term, it imposed a fine of $10,000.
Oliver was convicted of murder for the killing of Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old high school freshman.
He fired into a car full of teens on April 29 last year, saying he believed it was moving aggressively toward his partner.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson described Oliver as a “killer in blue” who violated his oath to protect citizens.
Prosecutors sought a sentence of at least 60 years while the defense argued for 20 years or less.
“The fact that Roy Oliver was even indicted for murder was already a small victory, but to be found guilty and convicted by a jury? These things don’t happen,” said Finessa Hudgens of Dallas. “So, although 15 years may not seem like much, this could be the start of something great,” Hudgens said.
Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, wrote in an email that the Oliver’s sentence “finally breaks the systematic problem of denying equal justice to the families and victims of racially-motivated police murders of Black persons across the United States.”
White police officers must be held accountable, said Chavis, a long-time civil rights activist and one-time head of the NAACP.
“The prison sentence should have been at minimum a life sentence for this brutal murder of an innocent Black teenager,” he said.
“But today, at least police officers in America are put on notice: if you murder us, you will be punished and imprisoned. We must stop these racist police murders.”