July 17, 2017 / 6:58 PM / a month ago

Ex-police officer charged with murder for killing black teen in Texas

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows Roy Oliver in Parker County Sheriff's Office booking photos in Weatherford, Texas, U.S. on May 5, 2017. Courtesy Parker County Sheriff's Office/Handout viaFILE Photo

DALLAS (Reuters) - A former Dallas suburb policeman was indicted on Monday by a grand jury for murder for using a rifle to kill a black teenager in a car moving away from the officer, in a case fuelling a national debate over possible racial bias in U.S. policing.

Roy Oliver, 37, a white officer who was fired by the Balch Springs Police Department for policy violations a few days after the shooting, was also charged with four counts of aggravated assault relating to the death of Jordan Edwards, 15, in late April, Dallas County prosecutors said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the shooting, which stoked simmering tensions over perceived racial bias in U.S. policing.

"It is important to let our community know that justice is proceeding effectively and thoroughly at the Dallas County District Attorney's office," Faith Johnson, the district attorney, told a news conference, adding that her department will prosecute the case vigorously.

Lawyers for Oliver and the Edwards family were not immediately available for comment. Oliver has not made a public statement about the shooting.

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.

The arrest warrant for Oliver said he and another 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. Oliver then shot multiple rounds into the sedan with a rifle, as it drove away from him, according to the warrant.

Two of Edwards' brothers were in the car with him and watched him die, a family lawyer said.

Police originally stated that the car with the teens was moving toward the officer at the time of the shooting, but said later that a police body camera showed the car was moving away from Oliver when he shot at it.

Edwards, who was described by family and friends as a standout high school student and athlete, was struck in the head by a bullet and died.

Edwards' father has sued Oliver and Balch Springs, alleging his son was the victim of excessive force.

In a separate case, Oliver was indicted in June on charges of threatening a woman with a firearm after a traffic accident on April 16, court documents showed.

Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by G Crosse, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis

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