Democracy Dies in Darkness

Post Nation

Officer who shot man says she mistakenly entered his apartment. His family doesn’t believe it.

September 11, 2018 at 10:41 AM

Brandt Jean, brother of shooting victim Botham Jean, hugs his sister, Allisa Charles-Findley, during a news conference Monday outside the Frank Crowley Courts Building about the shooting of their brother, Botham Jean, by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. They were joined by their mother, Allison Jean, left, and attorney Benjamin Crump. (Tom Fox/ Dallas Morning News via AP)

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger said she thought there was a burglar inside her apartment. The room was unlit, the front door was ajar, and she saw a “large silhouette” inside, according to court documents. The officer drew her service weapon at the supposed burglar, shouted commands she said were ignored, and pulled the trigger, killing her neighbor — the man who actually lived there.

But family members of the man, Botham Jean, 26, disputed the officer's account of the fatal shooting that has led to a protest and become a rallying cry against police brutality.

Dallas civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt, who represents Jean's family, said the officer's claim that she had mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after coming home from a shift is inconsistent with evidence.

“There are witnesses who said that before the gunshots, they heard the officer knocking at the door and repeatedly saying, ‘Let me in,’ ” Merritt told The Washington Post.

Guyger, 30, was arrested on a manslaughter charge Sunday, three days after Jean was killed. The delay raised questions about why investigators held off on arresting the officer and about whether law enforcement authorities were showing deferential treatment for one of their own.

Watch more!
Dozens marched in Dallas on Sept. 10 to protest the fatal shooting of Botham Shem Jean by officer Amber Guyger, who is white. Guyger was arrested Sept. 9 and charged with manslaughter after entering an apartment she thought was hers and killing Jean. (Reuters)

On Monday night, dozens of protesters marched from the police department headquarters near downtown Dallas to the apartment building just a few blocks away, chanting Jean's name.

“What's his name?” a protest leader with a megaphone said.

“Botham Jean!” the rest responded.

Despite the arrest, Jean's mother, Allison Jean, said several questions remain unanswered.

“The number one answer that I want is, ‘What happened?’ ” she told reporters Monday. “I have asked too many questions, and I've been told that there are no answers yet. I'm looking forward to the powers that be to come up with the answers to make me more satisfied that they are doing what is in the best interest of getting justice for Botham.”

Related: Dallas police officer arrested days after she killed a man in his apartment

Officials have remained tight-lipped about what the officer's physical and mental state was at the time, whether she was under the influence of a controlled substance, why she thought Jean's apartment was hers, and why a trained officer seemed so quick to use deadly force.

The court documents released Monday offered the first official account of the shooting — that of the officer's.

Guyger arrived home just before 10 p.m. Thursday and parked her car on the fourth level of the apartment building garage, which corresponds to the floors where residents live. She tried to use her door key, which has an electronic chip, to open the apartment, but the door was already unlocked, documents say. She saw the “large silhouette” across the room, and fired her handgun twice after Jean allegedly ignored her verbal commands, striking him once in the torso.

Guyger called 911, turned on the lights and saw the apartment number on the front door: 1478. Her apartment is directly below, 1378.

Watch more!
Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was arrested Sept. 9 and charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of her neighbor, Botham Shem Jean. Authorities said Guyer mistook Jean’s apartment for her own and killed him. (Reuters)

A video taken from the building shows the officer on the phone, pacing back and forth outside the apartment and crying. Paramedics were later seen moving a man on a gurney and performing CPR on him.

Merritt, the attorney, said that based on his conversations with police officials, there was probable cause to arrest Guyger on a manslaughter charge. But, he said, investigators with the Texas Ranger Division, a separate state agency that took over the case, told him they wanted more evidence.

Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall said that her office was in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant last week but that it was postponed after the Texas Ranger Division asked for additional time to investigate after interviewing Guyger.

A grand jury will ultimately decide the final charges against the officer and could consider charges such as murder, a first-degree felony, or the lesser charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.

Some of the protesters called for a murder charge.

“I’m mad, I’m sad, I’m frustrated because this is how you take hope from a people. This is how you show a people that they’re powerless, when we come out here and we’re asking for justice time and time again,” La’Shadion Shemwell told NBC affiliate KXAS-TV.

Related: A police officer walked into a man’s home — mistaking it for her own — and killed him, police say

Nobody was injured in the protest, which lasted a few hours, according to media reports.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson vowed thoroughness and fairness as her office prepares to present the case to the grand jury.

“We're going to unravel whatever we need to unravel. We're going to unturn whatever we need to unturn,” Johnson said.

Guyger, who has been with the police department for four years and is now on administrative leave, has been released on $300,000 bail.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Rangers, declined to comment beyond a brief news release announcing Guyger's arrest. The district attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment. The Dallas Police Association was not immediately available to comment Tuesday.

Jean, an accountant, was a native of the small Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Merritt, the family attorney, said Jean moved to Arkansas, where he attended Harding University, and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Jean was described as a man who loved God and worshiped through singing. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he was a model citizen.

Jean's death has placed the national spotlight back on a city that, just two years ago, lost five police officers in a shooting. A gunman, who said he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” opened fire during a peaceful protest of police shootings. It also has reignited questions about police brutality against black men, although Hall, the police chief, said she doesn't know whether race played a role in Jean's death.

Lindsey Bever and Taylor Telford contributed to this report.

Read more

Homeless vet gets happy (ish) ending: He will get balance of $400,000 raised by N.J. couple accused of squandering his fund

She was giving her black grandson a ride to work. Police mistook him for a robbery suspect.

Why a black police group issued a stirring defense of Colin Kaepernick


Kristine Phillips covers national and breaking news for The Washington Post. She previously covered criminal justice, courts and legal affairs at the Indianapolis Star.

Deanna Paul covers national and breaking news for The Washington Post. Before joining The Post, she spent six years as a New York City prosecutor.

Post Recommends
Outbrain

We're glad you're enjoying The Washington Post.

Get access to this story, and every story, on the web and in our apps with our Basic Digital subscription.

Welcome to The Washington Post

Thank you for subscribing
Keep reading for $10 $1
Show me more offers