Crime

Attorney calls for Dallas officer who killed neighbor to be arrested, denies some rumors

Those attending the vigil carried signs with the names of others who have been slain at the hands of police and end police brutality
Those attending the vigil carried signs with the names of others who have been slain at the hands of police and end police brutality mitchmitchell@star-telegram.com

The family of Botham Shem Jean — the man who was killed by a Dallas police officer on Thursday night — is calling for the “swift and immediate arrest of the officer involved.”

In a news conference on Saturday evening, attorney Lee Merritt said the family is upset that an arrest warrant hasn’t been issued.

“The warrant that seemed to be looming was withdrawn,” he said. “From everything we’ve heard, we’re not sure exactly what happened. Everyone we’ve spoke to today provides enough evidence for a charge of manslaughter ... there is likely evidence for an even stiffer penalty.”

In a tweet on Saturday night, the Dallas Police Department identified the officer as Amber Guyger. The officer was identified first by Merritt, one of the attorneys hired to represent the Jean family.

Guyger’s name had also been circulating throughout social media since at least Friday.

Jean, 26, was killed in his own apartment at around 10 p.m. Thursday by an off-duty, uniformed Dallas police officer who said she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own when she got off work.

Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said Friday “at my request, we are in the process of obtaining a warrant based on the circumstances we have now.” She later added the warrant would be for manslaughter.

However, Hall said on Saturday that the Texas Rangers, who are now investigating the shooting, have asked that they “hold off on the warrant until they have an opportunity to investigate” some of the information that was provided to them during an interview with Guyger. Hall didn’t elaborate.

“The ball is in their court to investigate, deliberate and come back with a decision,” she said.

Sara Mokuria, a co-founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, said this is an unacceptable way for Dallas to represent itself to the world.

“We want full transparency,” she said. “We would like the name of the officer to be released publicly and we would like the district attorney to act swiftly and give us immediate charges.”

Hall had said the officer’s name wouldn’t be released until she is arrested.

Merritt also denied rumors that Jean and the officer knew each other.

“We have nothing to substantiate those claims,” he said. “Certainly no one that has been attached to the family or any of the law enforcement officers we’ve spoken to can confirm that, in fact they say just the opposite.”

Asked if he was worried about the speculation and rumors spreading about the shooting, he again called for transparency.

Earlier in the day, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that justice will be served.

Both Rawlings and state Sen. Royce West asked for Dallas residents to be patient as authorities work to figure out what exactly happened Thursday night.

“Is this a white on back crime? Yes,” West said. “It was a white, female Dallas police officer who shot and killed a person from St. Lucia of African descent. Is this a race-related crime? Don’t know. I would hold any type of decision you make on what happened until all of the facts come in.”

Several questions still remain — such as how the officer got into the apartment, why she thought it was hers, how long she was there and what exactly happened between her and Jean. Hall said a blood draw has been done to determine if the officer had drugs or alcohol in her system.

“For some strange reason, the door was open and she was able to gain entry into the apartment. We need to find out whether there was a personal relationship,” West said. “There are so many facts that need to be looked at before determining what kind of homicide this is.”

In a response to the mayor’s news conference, Mokuria said: “We know that there have been calls for peace, but peace does not come without justice, and so in this moment we are calling for justice. ... This is an opportunity for the city to be transparent ... to correct the wrongs that have been done.”

Rawlings said Jean’s death is a very serious issue for the city.

“Botham Jean was exactly the sort of citizen we want to have in the city of Dallas,” he said. “A professional ... a believer in his church, a neighbor to his friends. A man that always had a smile on his face. And for that reason, this is a terrible, terrible thing that has happened. Not only has he lost his life, but we’ve lost a potential leader for this city.”

The mayor said he’s met with Jean’s mother and sister. Jean’s father will be arriving in Dallas in the coming days. Rawlings has also spoken with the prime minister of Saint Lucia, where Jean is from.

“I offered my apologies on behalf of the city of Dallas,” Rawlings said.

According to the Dallas Police Department’s blog, Guyger has been involved in a shooting before. In 2017, she shot Uvaldo Perez, 47.

Officers from the Crime Response Team, including Guyger, went to the 8300 block of Reva Street after receiving information from undercover officers that a wanted woman was at the location. The woman was in a car with Perez and when police arrived, Perez got out of the car and confronted the officers, police said.

Perez grabbed one of the officer’s Tasers and was shot and wounded by Guyger. He was eventually charged.

Nichole Manna: 817-390-7684, @NicholeManna

A neighbor of Botham Jean's said they took this video in the immediate aftermath of a Dallas police officer fatally shooting the 26-year-old man on Thursday night. The officer says she mistook Jean's apartment for her own, Dallas police said.

New evidence emerges in the death of Botham Jean who was shot by an off-duty Dallas Police Department officer on Sept. 6. Jean's family attorney Lee Merritt gives an update.

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