A former Dallas police officer says she was “scared to death” when she opened what she thought was her apartment door last year and saw a silhouetted figure standing in the darkness inside. Amber Guyger wept in court as she testified Friday in her murder trial in the killing last September of Botham Jean, who was in his own apartment when Guyger shot him.
Guyger, whose apartment was directly below Jean’s, was off duty but in uniform at the time of the shooting. She was later fired from the police force.
She began crying and shaking on the witness stand as she started describing entering his apartment that night. She said she mistook it for her own.
Guyger’s lips quivered and she started to cry as her lawyer questioned her about approaching Jean’s door. The judge then called for a short break in the proceedings.
She later testified that as she put her key in the apartment lock, the door opened because it hadn’t been fully closed. She says she drew her service weapon because she thought someone was in her home, and then she told the silhouetted figure inside: “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!”
Guyger said she couldn’t see the person’s hands and that he began coming toward her at a “fast-paced” walk. She said he yelled, “Hey, hey, hey,” and that she then fired at him.
“I hate that I have to live with this every single day of my life,” Guyger cried as she testified.
“I ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself every single day,” she said. “I wish he was the one with the gun who had killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life.”
Guyger’s testimony marked the first time the public has heard directly from the 31-year-old since she shot Jean.
Guyger’s attorneys have called Jean’s killing a “tragic, but innocent” mistake, saying Guyger fired in self-defense after mistaking the 26-year-old Jean for a burglar. Prosecutors have questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was at the wrong apartment, and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages with her police partner.
The prosecution, which rested on Thursday, has questioned her actions after she shot Jean.
Jean was on the couch in his shorts, watching TV and eating vanilla ice cream, when Guyger walked in and fired, Jason Hermus, a Dallas County prosecutor, told jurors earlier this week.
Guyger should have known she was in the wrong unit, prosecutors say
Guyger missed several signs indicating she was on the wrong floor and at the wrong apartment, prosecutors argued.
Several witnesses were questioned on the differences between Guyger’s and Jean’s apartments in an effort to demonstrate the former officer should have realized she was in the wrong unit before she opened fire.
For example, Dallas police Det. Stephen Cleary pointed out that Guyger’s apartment had a wooden board displaying photos hanging on the wall, a bookshelf in the corner and a small half-circle table with a vase of flowers against the wall.
The wall behind Guyger’s couch was bare, the photos showed.
But Jean’s apartment had art on the wall behind the couch, an ottoman and rug in the living room, and a workstation near the bar, Cleary testified.
The defense countered by pressing witnesses on the similarities in the hallways leading to their apartments.
Earlier this week, Texas Ranger David Armstrong testified that of the nearly 300 residents that investigators interviewed at the complex, nearly a quarter of those who lived in the third and fourth floors had previously put their keys in the wrong door. Even more had parked on the wrong floor and walked to the wrong apartment.
She should have focused on saving Jean but texted her partner, prosecutors say
Prosecutors also tried to show Guyger did not follow department burglar protocol for a burglary call. Guyger should have taken cover and called for backup, per protocol, at least one of her fellow officers testified.
But the defense argued since Guyger was off-duty and thought she was walking into her own home, she should not be held to that standard.
She was fatigued after working 40 hours in four days and was on “autopilot” when she parked on the wrong floor in the garage where the floors are not clearly marked, defense attorney Robert Rogers said in opening statements at the trial’s start.
As Guyger entered the apartment, she looked up and believed she saw an intruder about 30 feet from her in the dark, Rogers said.
The locking mechanism on Jean’s door was damaged, Armstrong testified, affecting the door’s ability to shut properly at times. Guyger’s defense team said that was one of the reasons she thought someone was burglarizing her home.
But after the shooting, Guyger was derelict in her efforts to save Jean after shooting him, prosecutors said, pointing to a 911 call she made shortly before 10 p.m. in which she said 19 times she was in the wrong apartment.
“When you listen critically to what she is saying, you are going to hear that she is as concerned or more concerned about how this is going to affect her than this poor guy on the floor next to her,” Hermus said.
Guyger said she performed first aid on Jean, an affidavit said.
Guyger sent two text messages to her partner on the force, whom prosecutors said she was intimate with — one at 10:02 p.m. saying, “I need you … hurry,” and another a minute later saying, “I f***ed up,” according to the testimony.
Authorities recovered those text messages, but Guyger allegedly deleted other messages, Hermus said. Guyger should have devoted all of her attention to providing first aid to Jean, Hermus said, instead of texting her partner.
Dallas Police officer Tu Minh Nguyen testified that Jean was “still alive” when officers started doing CPR, but his condition was “very faint” and he could be heard making grunting noises, the officer said.