Lawyers call police officer’s story in wrong-apartment shooting ‘highly implausible’
ABC News – The arrest warrant affidavit for a Dallas police officer who shot a man after she says she mistakenly entered his apartment has prompted more questions than answers for the victim’s family, whose lawyers called the officer’s scenario “highly implausible.”
The narrative that Officer Amber Guyger gave to investigators has been contradicted by at least two independent witnesses and flies in the face of facts they’ve gathered of the Thursday night killing at the South Side Flats apartment complex in Dallas, attorneys for the family of Botham Jean say, as they push for a murder charge.
“Independent witnesses have already come forward to say that they heard this officer pounding on the door and demanding to be let in,” Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys representing the Jean family, told ABC News. “The contradictions begin to build from there.”
But Guyger’s police union president said the Texas Rangers division has interviewed at least one of the witnesses mentioned by attorneys for the Jean family and still concluded after an independent investigation that the evidence amounted to a manslaughter charge, not murder.
“Don’t get me wrong. She’s going to have to answer in a court of law,” Sgt. Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said Tuesday. “But it needs to be fair and unbiased and right not it’s not unbiased. It’s beginning to turn into a political hunt.”
From his reading of the arrest warrant affidavit, Mata said, “you can understand how a mistake can be made.”
Guyger, 30, a four-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, was arrested and charged with manslaughter three days after killing Jean, 26.
A grand jury will ultimately decide what charges Guyger will face and did not rule out a murder indictment, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said Monday.
Guyger said she arrived home from work about 10 p.m. and parked her car on the fourth floor of the building instead of the third floor, which corresponded to her apartment, according to the arrest warrant affidavit by investigators from the Texas Rangers, a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Guyger’s apartment is directly beneath Jean’s fourth-floor unit.
“Guyger entered the building and walked down the fourth-floor hallway to what she thought was her apartment,” according to the arrest warrant made public Monday afternoon. “She inserted a unique door key, with an electronic chip, into the door keyhole. The door, which was slightly ajar prior to Guyger’s arrival, fully opened under the force of the key insertion.”
When the door opened, she saw a “large silhouette” in the nearly completely dark apartment and believed it was a burglar, according to the warrant.
Guyger, while still in uniform, no longer had her bodycam, which had been left at the station, per police protocol, according to the district attorney.
“Guyger drew her firearm, gave verbal commands that were ignored by … Jean,” according to the warrant. “Guyger fired her handgun two times striking [Jean] in the torso. Guyger entered the apartment, immediately called 911, requesting police and EMS, and provided first aid to … Jean.
“Due to the interior darkness of the apartment, Guyger turned on the interior lights while on the phone with 911. Upon being asked where she was located by emergency dispatchers, Guyger returned to the front door to observe the address and discovered she was at the wrong apartment,” according to the arrest warrant.
Jean was taken by ambulance to Baylor Hospital, where he died.
“That just seems highly implausible,” lawyer Merritt said of Guyger’s narrative.
It would have been “uncharacteristic” for Jean to leave his door ajar, Merritt added.
“He’s a very meticulous young man,” Merritt said. “He paid attention to detail and his security was something that was always forefront on his mind. So when he went into a room he closed the door behind him. He locked the door; he put his keys in a specific place.”
Benjamin Crump, another attorney for the Jean family, said it was also “troubling” that Guyger says she fired into the apartment after seeing a “large silhouette” inside and believing it was a burglar.
“She gives verbal commands and then she shoots into the dark apartment. Not knowing anything about who this individual is or anything, she shoots into a dark apartment,” Crump told ABC News.
“So it’s going to have to be determined is this the actions of a prudent well-trained police officer who at this time now has assumed that she is investigating a burglary and that she then must comply with her training, her experience, her education that she got from DPD [the Dallas Police Department]. It seems to be contradictory of a well-trained police officer.”
Attorney Daryl Washington, who is also representing the Jean family, said Guyger’s purported actions after shooting Jean was suspect and full of “inconsistencies.”
“From the fact that when you look at an affidavit and I’m thinking that I’m at my house and I call 911 because someone was just shot,” he said. “Well, the very first thing that I’m going to do is I’m not going to go outside and look at my address? I’m going to give them my address right there on the phone. I’m going to say I’m on the phone. My address is this. Why did she have to go outside to verify the address? It makes no sense whatsoever.”
The independent witnesses who heard the officer banging on Jean’s door prior to the shooting also say they heard a male voice cry out from the apartment after the gunfire, Crump said.
He said the witnesses “hear a male voice say, ‘Oh, my God, why did you do this?’ We believe that is the last words from Botham Jean alive.”
Merritt said he is “optimistic that at the end of the day” if prosecutors conduct the thorough investigation that District Attorney Johnson promised Monday, they will reject Guyger’s narrative and pursue a murder charge.
“We believe that the appropriate charges would be the charges of murder,” Merritt said.
Guyger has been released on $300,000 bail. A court date for her yet to be set.
Attempts by ABC News to reach Guyger were unsuccessful.
Matta, the police union president, told ABC News that the Texas Rangers conducted a thorough investigation independent of the Dallas Police Department and that lawyers for the Jean family, who had initially applauded such a probe, “don’t like what’s in the affidavit because it’s the facts.”
“They’re framing it as something different,” he said.
On the day of the shooting, Matta said, Officer Guyger had completed a 15-hour shift as part of a team that arrested several individuals wanted for 30-plus armed robbery and robberies in the Dallas area.
“I’ve met her on several occasions,” Mata said of Guyger. “She has an impeccable reputation. She is a hard-charging, go-getting officer, who has put a lot of bad people in jail.”
It was “very dishearting” to hear Johnson say during the news conference Monday her office will consider pursuing a murder charge against Guyger, Mata said.
“You could tell by her language, her attitude that she doesn’t accept the impartial investigation by the Texas Rangers,” Matta said of Johnson. “But don’t get up there and say you’re looking to up a charge and you haven’t even done anything, you haven’t even down your own investigation yet.
“I’m going be honest with you, Mr. Jean was what all us parents hope our kids turn out to be,” he said of the church-going native of Saint Lucia, who worked at the prestigious accounting and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas.
“He was an amazing individual, who had an amazing life ahead of him, who had done great things in his life. His loss is a loss to the city. But hanging out this officer, that’s not the right thing to do.”