Crime

A gun is the right response to deadly threat, investigator in Guyger murder trial says

The off-duty police officer who shot and killed Botham Jean, a 26-year-old unarmed man, had several force options that she might have considered using instead of her gun.

But using her gun was the right call if she perceived Jean as a threat, according to witness testimony Thursday.

Amber Guyger, who is in the fourth day of her murder trial, was in uniform, and strapped to her duty belt were a Taser, chemical spray and a flashlight, according to photographs introduced into evidence during the trial. Guyger also had a folding knife clipped to her pocket.

Guyger, 31, was fired from the Dallas Police Department and charged with Jean’s murder last year. Guyger told authorities that she believed Jean, her neighbor, was an intruder inside her apartment on Sept. 6, 2018.

Guyger soon realized that she shot Jean in his own apartment, where he had been sitting in his living room, eating ice cream and watching football on television, according to testimony.

Guyger did not realize that she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot Jean and until she was on the telephone with 911, turned on the lights and went to the door to tell first responders where she was located, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Prosecutors rested their case shortly after 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The defense will begin presenting its case Friday morning.

Guyger’s attorneys asked for a directed verdict shortly after the state rested, saying that the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office had not proven their murder case, nor had they proven any of the possible lesser included charges that might be presented before the jury.

State District Judge Tammy Kemp rejected their motion for a directed verdict and adjourned for the day, adding that she planned an abbreviated court session on Saturday.

When Michael Adcock, a Texas Ranger who aided in the Guyger investigation, was asked how an officer would respond to a deadly threat, he immediately replied that the officer would reach for a handgun.

The Taser, sometimes described as a less lethal option, is not used to react to deadly force, and the officer should reach for a handgun — a service weapon, according to Adcock’s testimony. The chemical spray is a distractionary weapon and would not be used in a deadly force situation, Adcock testified.

There would also be a problem using the chemical spray in an enclosed room, according to Adcock. The spray would not have a way to disperse and the user would suffer the same irritations caused by the spray as the target, according to Adcock’s testimony.

Bullet took downward trajectory

Dallas County Medical Examiner Chester Gwin testified Wednesday that Jean was a black man who weighed 247 pounds and was 6 feet, 1 inch tall, yet the bullet that fatally wounded him took a downward trajectory through his chest, heart and stomach before lodging in the musculature near his spine.

Guyger is 5 feet, 3 inches tall, according to published reports.

“it’s variable how quickly a person would die from it,” Gwin testified about Jean’s injuries. “An individual would be quickly losing a large amount of blood from these injuries.”

Prosecutors argued that Jean was most likely sitting on his couch when he was shot, but Guyger’s defense team argued that Jean was approaching Guyger when the fatal shot was fired and perhaps was crouching as he approached.

According to testimony on Thursday from Dallas Police Officer Tu Nguyen, Jean was still alive when other Dallas police officers began performing CPR. Nguyen’s body-worn camera shows Jean being moved while CPR was being administered.

Jurors saw Jean’s sandals being moved, furniture was moved and Nguyen had to elevate Jean’s feet in an attempt to prevent him from going into shock.

Prosecutors said there is no evidence that Jean ever posed a threat to Guyger. The defense argues that Guyger believed she was in danger.

When she was questioned Wednesday about whether there were any weapons in Jean’s vicinity, Dallas Police Department Crime Scene Analyst Robyn Carr testified that there were none.

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Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.
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