Dallas police officer arrested days after killing a man in his apartment
by: Washington Post
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)
The Dallas police officer who authorities said entered an apartment she thought was hers and killed a man who lived there is now facing a manslaughter charge.
Amber Guyger, 30, was taken into custody Sunday evening amid intensifying calls for her arrest and accusations that police are showing deferential treatment to one of their own. The shooting death of Botham Shem Jean, 26, also has become a rallying cry for advocates against police brutality — though much is still unknown about what happened in the Dallas apartment last week.
Jean was shot Thursday night in his apartment building near downtown Dallas. Guyger, still in uniform after working a shift, went inside Jean’s apartment, apparently thinking that it was hers. Police have said little else about what happened, other than that Guyger fired her weapon. She called 911, and Jean died at a hospital.
Allison Jean embraces her son’s friends after a prayer vigil for Botham Jean at the Dallas West Church of Christ on Saturday. He was shot by a police officer in his own apartment on Thursday night. (Shaban Athuman/Dallas Morning News/AP)
A video taken from outside the building shows the officer on her 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.
Authorities had initially held off on obtaining an arrest warrant for Guyger. Dallas Police Chief Renée Hall said investigators needed more time to decipher what they have described as an unusual case of a shooting by an officer. The Texas Ranger Division, a separate agency that’s investigating the case, had asked that the warrant be postponed.
Guyger, who has been with the police department for four years and is now on administrative leave, has since posted bail, according to the Kaufman County Jail, just outside of Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reported that Guyger’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Officials have not explained why Guyger apparently thought Jean’s apartment was hers or what her mental or physical state was at the time. Her blood is being tested for alcohol and drugs.
The delay in the officer’s arrest frustrated Jean’s family members who arrived in Dallas from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where Jean was born.
Before Guyger was arrested Sunday, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who represents Jean’s family, said that based on his conversations with officials, including Hall, there was enough evidence to arrest Guyger on suspicion of manslaughter. Merritt said he asked investigators with the Texas Ranger Division whether the postponement meant there was no probable cause to arrest Guyger.
“They said, ‘Not necessarily,’ and that they just wanted more evidence,” Merritt told The Washington Post earlier Sunday.
“In any normal case where there’s probable cause . . . you make an arrest,” Merritt added. “When law enforcement [is under investigation], for some reason, we don’t use the normal protocol in dealing with criminal activity.”
Merritt said Jean and the officer did not know each other. The officer’s apartment was directly below Jean’s, he said.
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, a former St. Lucia government official, called the news of his death “a nightmare.”
“I need to look into her eyes and ask her why did she do that to my son,” Allison Jean told NBC News. “Botham would want me to get justice for him. The state needs to pay for my son.”
A police spokeswoman referred questions to the Texas Ranger Division. The Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees the rangers, has not responded to a request for comment beyond issuing a brief news release announcing Guyger’s arrest.
During a criminal justice panel Saturday, Hall said her agency turned over the investigation to the Texas Ranger Division to ensure transparency and keep the community’s trust. She said investigators with the ranger division interviewed Guyger and asked for more time to look into the information she the officer gave them.
Jean’s death has renewed calls for policing reform and places the national spotlight back on a police department that, just two years ago, lost five of its officers in a shooting. A gunman who “said he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” opened fire in July 2016 in the middle of what had otherwise been a peaceful protest over police shootings.
Hall said she did not know whether race was a factor in Jean’s death and asked the public for patience as investigators do their work.
“There is so much rhetoric surrounding this incident. We have a lot of questions that are unanswered,” Hall said. “Allow us to get to the bottom of those answers that we could give to you, and then let’s have a discussion.”
Merritt, who also represents the family of Antwon Rose II, an unarmed teenager who was shot by an East Pittsburgh police officer, said race and police’s use of force are deeply intertwined in this country. On the night of the shooting, Guyger’s apartment key was found in Jean’s door, suggesting that she had tried to open it, Merritt said. Seeing a black man inside an apartment she thought was hers influenced her actions, Merritt concluded.
“I have to believe based on experience that her decision to use deadly force in the way that she did was influenced by the fact that she was standing in front of a black male and that our society has allowed law enforcement to use deadly force in unnecessary situations against black men with impunity,” he said.
Jean moved from St. Lucia to Arkansas and later became a naturalized U.S. citizen, Merritt said. He graduated in 2016 from Harding University, a private Christian school in Searcy, Ark., where he was a member of an a cappella group that performs spiritual songs for churches. Jean frequently led singing at the university chapel and during campus events.
“The entire Harding family grieves today for the loss of Botham Jean, who has meant so very much to us,” university officials said.
Bruce McLarty, president of the university, said he once asked Jean to lead the singing of an unfamiliar old hymn. Jean was excited about singing it, although he had not heard of the song. The day he was to perform it, McLarty recalled, Jean called his grandmother in St. Lucia, and she taught him the song over the phone.
“He shared it with us. … It was a truly special moment,” McLarty said.
Jean was an accountant at the Dallas office of PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international company that does assurance, tax and advisory work for firms around the world.
“This is a terrible tragedy,” the company said in a statement. “Botham Jean was a member of the PwC family in our Dallas office, and we are simply heartbroken to hear of his death.”
In a statement Sunday, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings thanked the Texas Rangers and asked that people “continue to pray for the family of Botham Jean tonight and in the weeks and months ahead.”
Rawlings said he had talked to Jean’s family and to St. Lucia’s prime minister to apologize for the young man’s death.
Jean, he said, “was exactly the sort of citizen we want to have in the city of Dallas.”