Crime

Ex-Dallas officer Amber Guyger indicted on murder charge in Botham Jean shooting

A former Dallas police officer who walked into an unarmed man’s apartment on Sept. 6 and shot him while wearing her police uniform has been indicted on a charge of murder.

The Dallas County grand jury began hearing the case against Amber Guyger, 30, on Monday. Guyger was originally charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean. She was released from jail on a $300,000 bond about an hour after turning herself in.

District Attorney Faith Johnson said that by 3 p.m., Guyger had turned herself back in on the murder charge. Her bond was transferred and she has been released.

Asked why the grand jury indicted Guyger on a murder charge, Johnson said, “We presented the evidence and explained the law.” She added that the law prohibits her from talking about the evidence presented to the grand jury.

She said her office had a “very spirited conversation” with the Texas Rangers, the lead investigators in the case, back in September.

“They chose to file this case as manslaughter,” she said. “We did our own investigation.”

She said that prosecutors talked to more than 300 witnesses.

Guyger has said she mistook Jean’s apartment at the South Side Flats for hers that night after getting off a long work shift, Dallas police said. Court documents have varied on the story of how Guyger got Jean’s door open.

Amber Guyger AP
FILE - This file photo provided by the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office shows Amber Guyger. A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in the case of Guyger, a former Dallas police officer who fatally shot her unarmed black neighbor in his own apartment after she said she mistook it for hers on Sept. 6, 2018. (Kaufman County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office via AP, File) AP

Johnson said that at the moment of the shooting, the action was intentional. She was not able to speak about what Guyger was thinking or doing before the shooting.

For a charge of murder, prosecutors have to prove without a reasonable doubt that Guyger intended to kill Jean.

Court documents have said that Guyger says she believed Jean was an intruder in her own apartment.

The Star-Telegram, along with several other media outlets, have requested copies of the 911 call Guyger made after the shooting, along with body camera footage worn by the officers who responded. The Dallas Police Department has declined to release that information and sent the open records requests to the attorney general for final determination.

Guyger was not wearing a body camera. The department said officers leave their body cameras at work after their shift.

Johnson, who was voted out of office in the Nov. 6 election, will not see the case through to a trial and said Friday that she “trusts the DA-elect will continue to represent this family (and all of Dallas County) as he seeks justice for victims.”

Johnson also spoke about why it took her office two months to bring the case in front of a grand jury. She said she wanted to make sure the jurors had everything they needed to “make the right choice.”

“We thought it was murder all along,” she said. “But we didn’t file this case ... we did what we had to to get this case ready for the grand jury. Justice is never too long.”

Moving forward, it could be more than a year before Guyger sits in front of a judge and jury. It took 16 months, Johnson said, for the case against Roy Oliver to go to trial. Oliver shot and killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards while on duty as a Balch Springs police officer. He was found guilty of murder.

Guyger was fired from the Dallas Police Department on Sept. 24. On Friday, Police Chief U. Renee Hall released a statement saying every person in the department continues to “feel anguish about this difficult and tragic event that occurred.”

“We have developed the framework for policy change, have supported the restructuring of the Citizen Review Board, pushed to exceed the basic requirements of implicit bias training, and have relied on input from our employee advisory and community advisory boards,” she said. “We have more work to do and we remain committed to improving our relationships throughout the city.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the indictment is an “important reminder that police derive their authority from the people and it is the people, functioning as members of grand juries, who must insist that police authority be exercised in a lawful manner and who must hold police accountable when they fail to do so.”

Jean was a native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. After graduating from college in Arkansas, he moved to Dallas to work for PriceWaterHouseCoopers.

Jean’s family filed a lawsuit against the City of Dallas and its police department in late October.

Jean’s family says in the suit that Guyger had a history of violence and used excessive force against Jean that fateful night in September, resulting in his wrongful death.

The family also says the Dallas Police Department “has a pattern, practice, history, and custom of using excessive force against minorities,” and accuses it of not providing proper training or discipline for Guyger in the use of deadly force.

“By simply following proper police procedures and the best police practices and not the protocol of the DPD to ‘shoot first and ask questions later,’ Defendant Guyger would have not shot Jean,” the lawsuit states. “Essentially, Officer Guyger was ill-trained, and as a result, defaulted to the defective DPD policy: to use deadly force even when there exists no immediate threat of harm to themselves or others.”

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.
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