amber guyger - botham shem jean
amber guyger - botham shem jean

Dallas Morning News:

by Sharon Grigsby

There’s just no way to wrap your head around the image: With the workday behind you, snug for the evening in your own apartment, the place you feel safest, you’re confronted by a uniformed police officer with a gun.

That’s the last thing Botham Jean saw.

A horror show unfolded Thursday night at the South Side Flats, just blocks away from police headquarters. In effect, an off-duty Dallas cop staged a deadly home invasion  — only, by her account, she thought it was her home that had been invaded.

Here’s the thing, though: The possibility that her actions were unwitting doesn’t absolve Amber Guyger, who was finally arrested Sunday and booked into the Kaufman County jail on a manslaughter charge. She quickly made bail and left through the back of the facility.

The police officer had moved to the Cedars apartment complex about a month ago. She had served in the Dallas Police Department for almost five years and earned a spot fighting crime in some of the hottest spots in the southeast part of the city.

She also had shot a man in the stomach in 2017 when he grabbed her Taser during an arrest that turned violent. He survived and is serving prison time. She was not indicted in the incident.

Based on what Guyger told investigating officers, she had never met Botham Jean before she ended his life. But Jean, a native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, sounds like the kind of big-hearted person we all would like to count among our friends.

Deeply religious, almost bubbly with joy and committed to whatever task was in front of him, the 26-year-old known by many as “Bo” was willing to go the extra mile for most anyone with whom he crossed paths. He was a mentor to at-risk youths. Song leader in his sanctuary. Devoted son and brother. Active alumnus at Harding University in Arkansas. Valued employee at the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting and auditing firm.

Botham Jean was “exactly the sort of citizen we want to have in the city of Dallas,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said Saturday.

“Mr. Jean was an amazing individual, and he is what we as parents hope our children turn out to be,” Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata said.

Statements like those are what you would expect, especially given the tensions between Dallas law enforcement and the city’s residents of color. And Botham Jean does sound like a really special guy.

But all of that is beside the point. Whether or not he led a near-perfect life and had a sterling character matters not one bit. Every time an unarmed civilian is killed by a cop, the social fabric frays a little further and faith in the rule of law takes a grave hit.

That Jean, a black man, was killed by a white cop only adds to the tragedy. A sacred contract exists between police and the people they protect and serve. We grant them extraordinary powers and need them to do their duty to keep the rest of us safe. We also expect them to use those powers wisely.

None of the meager facts known so far, or the hints dropped by sources with inside knowledge, alter that fundamental duty.

Even the scenario most sympathetic to Guyger — she was off duty, she parked on the wrong floor of the parking garage, she thought she was entering her own apartment, the door was unlocked and lights were out — doesn’t give her license to be so quick on the trigger.

As crazy as her story sounds, it may be true. Perhaps this was a deadly playing out of what neuroscience tells us: Shifting one’s perception is akin to moving a mountain. If she believed she was at her apartment, she literally might not see evidence to the contrary — like the apartment number on the wall or an unfamiliar red doormat.

But that doesn’t lessen her responsibility. Even if she believed the apartment was hers, what would justify her decision to shoot?

The bizarre nature of this story makes it all the more important that law enforcement presents the facts to the public as expediently as possible. In the absence of much real information, social media users are offering up all sorts of wildly inaccurate information and jumping to crazy-making conclusions.

Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall says getting to the bottom of this case is the aim of her department. Repeatedly since this story began unwinding Thursday night, she has stressed the need to be as transparent as possible.

She says part of that effort is bringing in the Texas Rangers to head up the investigation. But after three days of silence on the Rangers’ part, what some in law enforcement would characterize as an agency methodically doing its work began to look a lot like foot-dragging.

People were understandably angry about the delay in issuing a formal charge. Especially after police said Friday they were seeking an arrest warrant for manslaughter, then the chief said Saturday a judge had not signed a warrant because the Rangers had learned new information and wanted to investigate further.

Perhaps with Guyger now charged, a complete picture of Thursday night’s tragedy will emerge. Prudence is a virtue, but prolonged silence in a situation as fraught as this one can only make a crazy time even crazier.

6 COMMENTS

  1. If she drove home without any problems on where she lived,she should have known where her apartment was without any problems, how long has she lived at her apartment, an red mat was in front BOTHAM JEAN DOOR,WHICH THEY SAY WAS REMOVED and why does he have to follow commands when he in his apartment minding his own business, regardless she should have been paying attention,if a person take medication and drive an vehicle and killed someone they are held responsible, they’re trying their best to make this incident an really terrible accident, no mistake getting to lamar st.

  2. I don’t believe that there will be any truth coming out this police officer’s mouth, and to call this manslaughter, is a crime in itself; this is nothing but first degree murder, nothing less.
    However, no matter what, nothing can bring him back.
    May God bring comfort, courage and strength, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to his immediate family realities and friends during this painful moment. .

  3. In any case, this is a terrible tragedy, but it is not 1st degree murder. 1st degree murder means the person plotted and planned to kill a specific person. This is clearly not 1st degree murder. A case could be made for 2nd degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. Both charges mean the police officer intended to kill the victim at the time the officer arrived on the scene. The lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter likely does not apply because it implies the death is accidental result of the actions taken by the officer.

  4. For the sake of example, the “book” must be thrown at this (ex) officer. Every charge which can be justified by the facts should be filed, and each conviction should be punished by the maximum possible sentence.

    This case should become the precedent that will be looked to in similar cases in the years to come. It could also serve as the inspiration to go after military personnel who murder innocent people, and to inflict upon the criminals the maximum lawful degree of punishment.

  5. I fully agree with lawyer-columnist David French on the perspective that this woman is a serial liar, as well as a low IQ white supremacist. I believe the Dallas Police authorities who gave her a badge and a gun should be prosecuted along with her…She had been having bad times hearing her upstairs neighbor singing or whatever, and she got home that night with full intent to shoot him dead ! She is still expecting the Grand Jury to slam her wrist, and let her go… I beg God that this will not happen !

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