Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger leaves the courtroom after a jury found her guilty of murder on October 1. Picture: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool.
Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger leaves the courtroom after a jury found her guilty of murder on October 1. Picture: Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool.

Rare conviction for US cop who shot unarmed black man

By Bruce Tomaso Time of article published Oct 1, 2019

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DALLAS, TEXAS - A Dallas jury found former police officer Amber Guyger guilty of murder on Tuesday, after she accidentally walked into a neighbor's apartment thinking it was her own and shot him dead as he ate ice cream.

The September 6, 2018, killing of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old black PwC accountant, by a white officer sparked street protests, particularly when prosecutors initially opted to bring the lesser charge of manslaughter against Guyger, 31.

"We the jury unanimously find the defendant Amber Guyger guilty of murder as charged in the indictment," Judge Tammy Kemp read aloud to the courtroom from the jurors' statement. A sob, which sounded like it came from Guyger's bench, cut the judge off and Kemp paused to address the courtroom: "No outbursts."

Guyger, who spent four years on the force before the killing, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for the slaying. She took the rare step of testifying in her own defense during her trial, tearfully expressing regret for shooting Jean but saying she had believed her life was in danger when she pulled the trigger.

"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry. I have to live with this every single day," Guyger told the jury of eight women and four men.

In cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus asked her, "When you shot him twice, you intended to kill him, didn't you?"

"I did," Guyger responded, in a calm voice.

Prosecutors also argued that Guyger did little to help Jean even after realizing her mistake, calling the 911 emergency phone number for an ambulance but not administering first aid.

Hermus also told the jury that Guyger missed blatant clues that she was not in her own apartment - including the smell of marijuana smoke - because she was distracted after a 16-minute phone conversation on her commute with her former police partner. Guyger testified that the call was in relation to work.

The shooting stood in contrast to cases like the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Guyger shot Jean while she was off duty, rather than while responding to a reported crime.

In her testimony, Guyger told jurors that the shooting "is not about hate; it's about being scared."

Neither prosecutors nor the defense focused on race during the trial.

The crime was one of a series of killings that stirred the U.S. debate over police use of force against black Americans. Here's a look at some other recent high-profile cases:

Justine Damon

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, a Somali-American man, was convicted of third-degree murder for killing 40-year-old Australian Justine Ruszczyk Damond outside her home. In June, Noor was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison.

Walter Scott

Michael Slager, a white police officer, was caught on video shooting a 50-year-old unarmed black man, Walter Scott, in the back after a traffic stop in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 4, 2015.

After a state murder trial ended with a deadlocked jury, Slager pleaded guilty to federal charges that he violated Scott's civil rights and was sentenced in 2017 to 20 years in prison.

Eric Garner

New York City police fired white police officer David Pantaleo in August over the July 17, 2014, killing of a Eric Garner, a black man, with a prohibited chokehold. Pantaleo was never criminally charged.

Garner's dying words, "I can't breathe!" were captured on video and became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement that aimed to call attention to police killings of unarmed black people.

Terence Crutcher

Betty Shelby, a white police officer, was captured on video fatally shooting a 40-year-old black man, Terence Crutcher, as he stood near his car on Sept. 16, 2016, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Shelby said she feared Crutcher was reaching for a gun, but he had no weapon. A jury acquitted Shelby of first-degree manslaughter the following year, and she resigned.

Philando Castile

Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot a 32-year-old black man, Philando Castile, five times during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on July 6, 2016. The officer said he had feared for his life when Castile said he was carrying a firearm and reached for his wallet when Yanez asked to see identification. Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter in 2017.

Samuel Dubose

University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing fatally shot black motorist Samuel DuBose, 43, after stopping him for a missing front license plate in July 2015. Tensing, who is white, said he feared for his life during the traffic stop when DuBose refused to leave his vehicle, which started rolling forward slowly. Tensing pulled his gun and fired once.

A state jury was unable to reach a verdict on murder and manslaughter charges in November 2016, and a retrial in 2017 also ended in a hung jury.

Michael Brown

Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug. 9, 2014. The killing sparked nearly two weeks of protests and rioting that subsided at the family's urging just before Brown's funeral.

A state grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to prosecute him, after evidence suggested that Brown had reached into Wilson's car and tried to take his gun. Wilson is no longer with the police force.

Freddie Gray

In Baltimore, a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray, was arrested on April 12, 2015 after police said he fled the scene unprovoked in a high-crime area while in possession of an illegal switchblade.

After being transported in a police van, Gray was hospitalized unconscious and died on April 19 of what was determined to be a neck injury.

Six Baltimore police officers, including three who are black, were charged with Gray's death. None was convicted, and the U.S. Department of Justice subsequently decided not to bring charges against them.

Tamir Rice

Timothy Loehmann, a white police officer, shot Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was displaying a toy gun, in Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 22, 2014.

A grand jury declined to indict Loehmann and another officer at the scene. Loehmann was later fired from the police department for concealing information in his original job application. 


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