Crime

Guyger testifies: ‘I was thinking that I shot an innocent man who didn’t deserve it.’

Ex-Dallas police officer Amber Guyger cried two times while she was being questioned during her murder trial on Friday.

She had testified for less than an hour the first time she broke down in tears. Guyger, who had previously showed little emotion and talked in very subdued tones while on the witness stand, suddenly began to cry and weep loudly.

State District Judge Tammy Kemp sent the jury out of the courtroom to allow Guyger to take a 10-minute break.

About an hour later, Guyger began crying again and telling people that she was sorry and that she will have to live with her decision to shoot an innocent man for the rest of her life.

“No police officer would ever want to hurt an innocent person,” Guyger said.

Guyger, 31, is charged with murder in the Sept. 6, 2018, death of her neighbor Botham Shem Jean, 26. She has said that she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own and thought he was an intruder.

Guyger, who was in uniform but off duty at the time of the shooting, was fired from the Dallas police force.

The day Botham Jean died

Guyger approached the door with her key in hand and stopped, she said.

“I saw it [the door] was cracked open,” Guyger testified. “I heard someone moving around in my apartment. There was a loud shuffling around. But me putting the key in the lock is pushing the door open.”

Guyger said she was scared to death and her heart rate sky-rocketed.

“I compare it to being in a car wreck,” Guyger said. “Right before you are going to hit, everything freezes up inside your body. It’s just fear, fear, fear.”

Guyger said she saw a shadow of a figure in the back of the dark room and yelled at him.

“Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands! And I drew my service revolver,” Guyger said. “Then I saw him coming toward me. I thought he was going to kill me. He was yelling, ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ in an aggressive voice.”

She said the figure was pacing back and forth near the back wall. Only a matter of seconds passed. Guyger fired two rounds.

Guyger said she shot because she believed the man was going to kill her. He was coming toward her at a “fast-paced” walk, she said, and she couldn’t see his hands and didn’t know if he had a weapon. Police later found Jean was unarmed, and prosecutors say he was never a threat to Guyger.

After shooting Jean, Guyger testified, she then walked to the kitchen counter area and that’s when she started to realize that she was in the wrong apartment and she had shot someone innocent.

“Before that I was only focused on the threat,” Guyger said.

Guyger testified that as she walked toward Jean’s fallen body she realized that she had no idea who he was.

“I was kneeling down next to him and I called 911,” Guyger said. “I knew I had shot him. I didn’t know where he was shot on his body.”

Guyger testified that she was calling 911 with one hand and doing chest compressions on Jean with her other hand. When questioned by a prosecutor, she said she stopped her attempts at first aid several times. Guyger told the jury that she walked outside so she could see where she was and give the location to the 911 dispatcher.

“What was going through your mind then?” asked Toby Shook, one of Guyger’s attorneys.

“I was thinking that I shot an innocent man who didn’t deserve it,” Guyger said.

As she walked outside the apartment where Jean lay, she could hear the echoes coming from the radio traffic of the arriving officers, Guyger said. Those officers told her to go outside, she said.

“When I think about Jean, I feel like a terrible person,” Guyger said. “I feel like crap. I feel like I don’t deserve to be with my family and friends.”

Guyger testified that, while waiting for other officers to arrive, she sent texts to her partner Martin Rivera, with whom she had been romantically involved, because she was alone and she did not want to be alone.

She deleted the texts from her phone, which was standard, Guyger said.

“I deleted them because I was ashamed I was in the relationship,” Guyger said.

Rivera was married and had children, Guyger testified.

Prosecutor: You chose to shoot

Guyger took eight hours of de-escalation training in April before shooting Botham Jean, according to evidence presented by Jason Hermus, Dallas County prosecutor.

Hermus suggested that Guyger used none of the de-escalation training she received during her encounter with Jean. Hermus asked Guyger if she had changed any of the ways that she did business after taking the de-escalation training.

“Do you remember them saying take advantage of time so that additional resources can be routed to you?” Hermus asked.

“I don’t remember,” Guyger said. “It’s been awhile since I took that class.”

After mistakenly opening the door to Jean’s apartment, Guyger had choices, Hermus pointed out during his cross-examination.

“Your options were go in and find the threat or wait outside and call for backup?” Hermus asked. “Your training says that to maximize your safety, do not go inside that apartment. For your safety, you should have taken a position of cover and concealment and called for help.”

Guyger said that she could have.

Hermus said that backup, SWAT units, would have been to her location in two minutes, and Guyger indicated that they would have.

And then Hermus asked Guyger if she testified that she saw Jean from nearly 30 feet away going from side to side for two to three seconds.

“You could have backed away and let the door shut,” Hermus said.

“I could have,” Guyger replied.

“But you chose to shoot,” Hermus said.

“I did,” Guyger said.

Hermus also questioned Guyger about why she didn’t perform “proper CPR” and how grief-stricken she really was after killing Jean. Guyger testified that two days after Jean’s death, she sent sexually suggestive text messages to Rivera, her partner and former lover, about going out for drinks.

Prosecutors have argued Guyger also was distracted by a text conversation she was having with her partner before the shooting and that she continued to text and talk on her phone instead of giving her full attention to helping the dying Jean.

‘I knew it was morally wrong’

Guyger said being a police officer was her dream job.

She pursued a degree in criminology and took courses at Tarrant County College and the University of Texas Arlington while working full time at a restaurant.

After being accepted in the Dallas Police Academy, Guyger said, she was trained to never let anyone get too close and to always be able to see a suspect’s hands.

“If you can’t see the suspects hands, it usually meant that they were reaching for a weapon that could be used against you,” she said. “It was drilled into you.”

Proximity awareness was also drilled into her, Guyger testified.

If you let a suspect get too close, it could “be a bad day for you,” Guyger said.

After she graduated from the police academy, Guyger went to the Southeast District because other police officers had told her it offered more varieties of crime. Guyger said she later joined the district’s Crime Reduction Team, which concentrated on drug interdiction cases after she received more training.

Guyger met Rivera after joining the CRT and began to look up to him because of his experience and because she felt “safe with him,” she testified.

They developed a sexual relationship, but Guyger said she tried to keep it secret because Rivera was married. They were together romantically about once a month, Guyger testified. The relationship ended in late 2017 or early 2018, Guyger said.

“I knew it was morally wrong,” Guyger said.

Guyger said she and her Yorkie named Ranger moved to the Southside Flats in mid-July 2018.

“When I would go to work, I would look at the crime in that area,” Guyger testified. “There were a lot of robberies and burglaries. There would be homeless people passed out on the patio chairs and the pool area.”

In cross-examination, Hermus pointed out Guyger had sent a text to a fellow officer which said that although there were a few homeless people in the area and some “hippies smoking weed,” she liked Southside Flats, where she lived in an apartment directly beneath Jean’s apartment.

Guyger said she worked a part-time job on Sunday at a church and long hours at work. Her only day off was on Saturday. She said she went to bed about midnight and woke up about 5:30 a.m. Guyger said she liked to work out during the day because it would help her relieve stress.

Guyger testified that she would carry a pocket knife with her when she walked her dog.

“You would see a lot of stuff that you didn’t want to see and working out would make me feel more normal,” Guyger testified.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

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.
  Comments