A white former Dallas police officer has been indicted on a murder charge for killing an unarmed black neighbor when she mistook his apartment for her own.
Court records were posted Friday before Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson held a press conference announcing the decision of a grand jury on the fate of Amber Guyger.
Guyger was arrested on a manslaughter charge three days after the September 6 shooting that claimed the life of 26-year-old accountant Botham Jean, who was from the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia.
Decision reached: A Dallas County grand jury on Friday voted to indict former police officer Amber Guyger, 30 (left in a new mugshot), on a murder charge in the shooting death of Botham Jean (right)
Dallas County DA Faith Johnson announced the indictment against Guyger during a press conference Friday afternoon
Jean’s family attended the press conference and later expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the grand jury’s vote
The grand jury had the option of indicting Guyger on the original manslaughter count carrying up to 20 years in prison, or not indicting her at all, but in the end, they decided to indict her on the upgraded murder charge.
If convicted, Guyger could face a sentence of up to a life in prison.
At Friday’s afternoon press conference carried live by WFAA and attended by Jean’s family, District Attorney Johnson thanked the grand jury for their hard work and diligence.
When asked by reporters why the jury chose to indict Guyger for murder instead of manslaughter, Johnson said that her prosecutors had presented all the evidence based on more than 300 interviews with witnesses and fully explained the law to the jurors.
Johnson also repeatedly pointed out that it was the Texas Rangers’ call, as the agency leading the investigation into the shooting, to file the manslaughter charge at the time of Guyger’s arrest, even though she said her office believed it was a murder case ‘all along.’
Guyger told investigators she had mistakenly entered Jean’s unit, thinking it was her apartment, and thought she’d encountered an intruder. She has since been fired from the department.
Following Friday’s news conference, Jean’s parents spoke to reporters, expressing their satisfaction with the outcome of the grand jury’s vote, reported Dallas News.
‘I truly believe that she inflicted tremendous evil on my son,’ victim’s mother Allison Jean said of Guyger. ‘I look forward to the next test, which is a conviction of murder of Amber Guyger, and more so of a penalty, a proper penalty so she can reflect on what she has done.’
The ex-cop remained free on $300,000 bail. A judge on Friday ordered Guyger to surrender her passport and barred her from leaving the state without permission.
Jean, an accountant, was in his Dallas apartment watching football when Guyger opened fire on him
Jean’s family has filed a lawsuit against Guyger and the city of Dallas.
The lawsuit argues that the police department did not adequately train Guyger, who had ended her shift prior to the shooting. The litigation also argues Guyger was acting under her scope as a Dallas officer during the deadly encounter.
There remains conflicting narratives over what led up to the shooting.
An affidavit prepared by the Texas Rangers said Guyger went to the wrong apartment after ending her shift on September 6. The door, according to the document, was ajar and Guyger opened it.
Inside, the lights were off and a figure in the darkness cast a large silhouette across the room, according to Guyger. She said she thought her apartment was being burglarized and gave verbal commands to the person, who ignored them.
She then pulled out her firearm and shot two times, hitting Jean once in the torso, according to the affidavit. The lawsuit said Guyger did not give emergency aid to Jean following the gunfire.
Guyger reported that she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own and thought she had encountered an intruder on the night of the fatal shooting
Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys for Jean’s family, cast doubt on Guyger’s narrative. Merritt has said that two independent witnesses told him they heard knocking on the door in the hallway before the shooting.
He said one witness reported hearing a woman’s voice saying: ‘Let me in! Let me in!’
Jean was not the first person shot by the former officer.
Gugyer shot and wounded Uvaldo Perez, on May 12, 2017, while she was on duty.
An affidavit in the case filed against Perez said police were looking for a suspect when Guyger and another officer were called to assist a third. Perez got out of a car and became combative with Guyger and another officer.
A struggle started and she opened fire after Perez wrestled her Taser away from her.
Gugyer was not charged in that incident.