Dallas District Attorney says grand jury will decide if the shooting of Botham Jean is manslaughter or murder
Botham Jean’s family said they’re relieved that the Dallas police officer who killed Jean will face charges — but they still have unanswered questions.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said Monday that the case involving Officer Amber Guyger, 30, is now in her hands and that it will be up to the grand jury to decide if it’s a manslaughter or murder case. The timeline on a grand jury hearing isn’t known yet.
Johnson said her office is continuing to investigate the shooting.
“Trust me, we will present to the grand jury everything that we can possibly present to them,” Johnson said at a news conference. She declined to release any evidence or facts about what happened, saying she will not compromise the investigation.
“If the people of Dallas County have already made up their minds based on what they heard, it’ll be very hard to get a fair jury,” she said.
Johnson said her office had a “spirited debate” with the Texas Rangers. She would not elaborate on what that conversation entailed.
Rumors had circulated that there was a disagreement between whether to charge Guyger with murder or manslaughter, but those rumors have not been confirmed.
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey released a statement on the shooting Monday saying he joined the Dallas community in mourning “the senseless and tragic death of Botham ‘Bo’ Jean. As I’ve said all too recently,” Veasey said, “there is a systematic failure in our criminal justice system to prosecute the unjustified shootings of black men and boys in this country. I’m deeply troubled that the Texas Rangers delayed issuing an arrest warrant for the suspect, who is a Dallas police officer, for so long.”
Guyger was arrested on a manslaughter charge on Sunday evening. But a grand jury could decide to upgrade the charge to murder, Johnson said.
Guyger told Dallas police that when she got off work on Thursday, she went to the wrong apartment, thinking it was hers, and shot Jean, 26.
The Dallas County medical examiner ruled Jean’s death a homicide by a gunshot wound to his chest.
An arrest affidavit that was released on Monday afternoon says that Guyger went to the wrong floor — Jean lives in the apartment directly above hers.
“She inserted a unique door key, with an electronic chip, into the door key hole,” the affidavit says. “The door, which was slightly ajar prior to Guyger’s arrival, fully opened under the force of the key insertion.”
Once the door opened, Guyger saw Jean across the room. She described him as looking like a large silhouette because it was dark inside. She said she believed he was an intruder. She fired her handgun twice.
An hour after her arrest in Kaufman County, Guyger posted a $300,000 bond and left the Kaufman County Jail.
Attorneys for Jean’s family called a news conference later Monday morning regarding the charges.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of St. Lucia was with the family and said there was a sadness looming over the sudden loss of life.
The prime minister said he has seen a family in pain because they’ve lost a son and brother and also because they’ve been forced to sit and wait for justice. He said he was encouraged by word from the district attorney that the DA’s office is still investigating and gathering evidence to present to the grand jury.
Family attorney Lee Merritt said he wasn’t satisfied that it took three days to put Guyger in handcuffs. She was able to go home to her bed afterward, he said.
“His killer was known to the district attorney at the time, and that person was able to leave Botham’s home, return to her home and not face any consequences for three days,” he said. “This city has to share in our cries for justice.”
A neighbor of Jean’s took a video of what she said is the aftermath of the shooting. In the video, a female officer who resembles Guyger is heard crying. She paces along the hallway outside Jean’s apartment and is on her cellphone. No conversation can be heard. In a second video, workers appear to be giving Jean chest compressions as he lies on a gurney. Behind him, the woman who appears to be Guyger walks out with a group of about nine paramedics and officers.
The Dallas Police Department would not comment on the video or confirm if the female officer shown is Guyger.
Merritt noted that there would be no body camera footage because Guyger wasn’t wearing a body camera the night of the shooting. Dallas police policy is that officers have to remove their body cameras before leaving after a shift, he said.
But he said he doesn’t view it as an off-duty shooting because she was still in uniform at the time and used her service weapon.
He said there are questions lingering and that the district attorney hasn’t told him or the family anything they didn’t already know, such as why Guyger didn’t know she was on the wrong floor of the apartment building where she lived or why she didn’t notice the red carpet that Jean’s mother bought him outside his door — it wouldn’t have been outside hers.
“Why was she so quick to rely on deadly force?” he asked. “What went wrong in her training?”
The affidavit doesn’t answer those questions.
Merritt was joined by co-counsel Benjamin L. Crump, who told the gathering, “We don’t want to keep losing children to people meant to protect us.”
At a news conference Sunday night, Crump lamented: “Black people have been killed by police in some of the most arbitrary ways in America. Blacks have been killed for ‘driving while black’ in their automobiles, ‘walking while black’ in their neighborhoods and now ‘living while black’ in their own apartment. Each time it is more shocking than before,” he said. “This crime was not only a shock for the Jean family, but also one that continues to astonish most sensible Americans.”
At the news conference on Monday, Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, thanked the community and the world for standing with her family. She said her No. 1 concern now is that she just wants to know what happened.
“I’ve been told that there are no answers yet,” she said.
Her family met with the district attorney’s office over the weekend and she said they weren’t satisfied.
In the days leading up to Guyger’s arrest, rumors swirled around the Internet that Jean and Guyger knew each other and had been dating.
Merritt denied those rumors multiple times. He also called for more transparency in the case to stop rumors like that from forming, and to give the family answers.