AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas jury on Tuesday found a white former policeman guilty of murder for fatally shooting a black teenager in a car moving away from him in a 2017 case in a Dallas suburb that fueled a national debate over possible racial bias in U.S. policing.
The police officer, Roy Oliver, 38, was fired by the Balch Springs Police Department for violating department policy a few days after he fatally shot Jordan Edwards, 15, a standout high school student and athlete. Edwards was shot in the head.
The conviction was a rare instance in which an officer was found guilty of murdering an unarmed person. Oliver faces up to life in prison; sentencing will come later.
Oliver, along with another officer, had responded to reports of underage drinking at a house party in the predominantly black and Hispanic city of Balch Springs, about 15 miles (25 km) southeast of Dallas. Oliver fired his rifle several times into a car with several other teens inside, prosecutors said.
The jurors deliberated for about 12 hours over two days before reaching its verdict, following a trial that started in mid-August.
First Assistant District Attorney Michael Snipes said Oliver was a trigger-happy policeman who sent the teenager to an early grave.
"This guy is an angry, out-of-control, walking bomb," Snipes said in closing arguments.
The arrest warrant for Oliver said he and the other officer tried to stop a car at an intersection near the party. The other officer broke a passenger window with the butt of his gun.
Police body camera images showed to jurors indicated that the car was moving away from Oliver when he fired at it.
Oliver's defense attorney, Jim Lane, said the vehicle was a threat to Oliver's partner that night and he reacted to save his partner by firing into the car.
"Roy Oliver reasonably made the decision that he had to make," Lane said in closing arguments.
Video footage shown in court showed the car was pointed away from the officers at the time of the incident, and still frames from body camera footage showed that Oliver turned his body to follow the car after it had passed by his partner and kept shooting, the Dallas Morning News reported from the courtroom.
Two of Edwards’ brothers were in the car with him and watched him die, a family lawyer said.