Amber Guyger (left) said she thought Botham Jean was an intruder in her own apartment
By BBC News
A US former police officer who shot dead her neighbour inside his own apartment in Dallas has been found guilty of murder. Amber Guyger, 31, argued she killed Botham Jean, 26, after mistakenly thinking she was in her own flat and that he was an intruder. The verdict comes after a tense seven-day trial in which Guyger admitted: “I shot an innocent man.” The four-year police veteran is facing a possible life sentence in prison. Cheers broke out as the verdict was announced. Guyger slumped down at the defence table and wept.
Victim was eating ice cream when he was shot
Guyger’s lawyers argued she was distracted by sexually suggestive texts with another police officer and had just completed a nearly 14-hour shift when she made “a series of horrible mistakes” on the night of 6 September 2018. Prosecutors accused her of bursting into Jean’s apartment “commando-style” and firing at him while he was eating a bowl of ice cream on his sofa.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Fine called her testimony “garbage” and said her actions were “not a mistake”. During the trial, the Texas Ranger who led the investigation testified it was common for residents at the complex where both Jean and Guyger lived to accidentally attempt to enter the wrong flat due to the building’s design.
Guyger testified that she found the door unlocked, and noticed it open slightly when she pushed her key into what she said she thought was her apartment.
Prosecutors said the off-duty police officer failed to recognise signs, such as Jean’s distinctive red door mat, that she was standing outside the wrong flat.
‘The tide is going to change’
“This is a victory for black people in America,” said civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt after the verdict was read. “It’s a signal that the tide is going to change here. Police officers are going to be held accountable for their actions and we believe that will begin to change policing culture all over the world.”
“This should have been automatic. This should have been anticipated, expected”, he continued, describing cases of police officers being punished for shooting unarmed black men such as Jean, as “rare”. The shooting sparked protests as community members feared that Guyger would not be held accountable. She was initially arrested several days after the killing and charged with manslaughter before being released from jail that same day. After weeks of tensions, she was eventually arrested and charged with murder.
Botham Jean, a native of St Lucia, worked as an accountant at Pricewaterhouse Cooper at the time of his death. Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was among those to praise Jean after his death, calling him “a model citizen”.