Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder for fatally shooting her neighbor, Botham Jean, after thinking he was an intruder when she mistakenly entered his apartment. The jury was tasked with deciding whether Guyger, 31, acted reasonably when she used deadly force and if the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she had intentionally killed Jean. A lesser charge of manslaughter, which involves reckless conduct, was also on the table.
The next day, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the same jury that convicted her of murder. Guyger had been out on a $300,000 bond and faced a maximum of life in prison. The sentence was met with boos and jeers by a crowd gathered outside the courtroom. Jurors who spoke out after the sentencing said they were influenced by what they believed Jean would have wanted, the remorse Guyger exhibited on the witness stand and that she did not set out to kill Jean, but made fatal decisions after accidentally entering his home. Many said the case was very different from the standard fatal shootings of unarmed black by police officers and they couldn’t bring themselves to give her a longer sentence knowing the facts of the case.
Botham Jean’s younger brother, Brandt Jean, in a victim impact statement after the sentence, told Guyger he forgave her and loved her as he would any other person. “I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother — I personally want the best for you,” Brandt Jean, 18, said. “I wasn’t going to say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want.” He asked the judge if he could hug Guyger, and the two embraced as Guyger sobbed.
Guyger was off-duty but in uniform when she twice shot at Jean on Sept. 6, 2018, just before 10 p.m., striking him in the chest. She had worked a 13-1/2-hour shift on the Dallas Police Department’s crime response team that day and parked on the fourth floor of the complex’s garage. She lived on the third floor, and Jean, 26, an accountant and native of the island nation of St. Lucia, lived directly above her. The two did not know one another.
Prosecutors said Jean was watching television and eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream in his living room when Guyger burst inside, likely scaring him. Although Guyger said that she used her electronic key fob in the lock, the door pushed open, and she immediately drew her service weapon once inside. Testifying in her own defense last week, Guyger tearfully told jurors that she was scared for her life when she entered an apartment that she thought was hers. She said she commanded, “Let me see your hands,” but the man inside began coming toward her and yelling, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” The trajectory of the bullet showed that Jean was either getting up from his couch or cowering when Guyger fired at him, the prosecution said.
Guyger wept on the stand and testified that on the evening of Sept. 6, 2018, she thought she was entering her own unit, one floor below, when she encountered her unarmed black neighbor in his apartment. The off-duty officer mistook him for an intruder and fired two shots, killing Jean. “I’m so sorry,” Guyger said. “I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life. I wish he was the one with the gun that killed me,” she added.
Juror 34 said “I think that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. No matter how many years we would have gave Amber Guyger, it’s not bringing Botham back,” the juror said, calling the murder “a mistake. Ten years, the juror said, acknowledged the severity of the crime but also allowed the 31-year-old to rebuild a life post-release.