Lawyer: Dallas cop who killed man at home should be charged
DALLAS — A lawyer for the family of a black man who was gunned down at his home by a white Dallas police officer is calling for her to be arrested and charged, saying the fact that she remains free days after the shooting shows she’s receiving favorable treatment.
S. Lee Merritt, who is representing the family of 26-year-old Botham Jean, said Saturday that the family isn’t calling on the authorities to jump to conclusions or to deny Officer Amber Guyger her right to due process. But Merritt, flanked by members of the family and Mothers Against Police Brutality, said they want Guyger “to be treated like every other citizen, and where there is evidence that they’ve committed a crime, that there’s a warrant to be issued and an arrest to be made.”
Guyger, a four-year veteran of the police force, hadn’t been charged as of Sunday afternoon, according to city of Dallas and Dallas County online records. The Dallas Police Department released her name Saturday night, which was two nights after she shot and killed Jean.
Police Chief U. Renee Hall said the day after the shooting that her department was seeking manslaughter charges against Guyger. But she said Saturday that the Texas Rangers, who have taken over the investigation, asked her department to hold off because they had learned new information and wanted to investigate further before a warrant was issued.
Police on Sunday referred questions to the Rangers. A spokesman for the agency, Lonny Haschel, said in an email that no additional information was available.
Jean’s family has also hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who is best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Martin, a black, unarmed 17-year-old, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
Crump has also represented the families of Stephon Clark and Terence Crutcher, both also black and unarmed. Clark, 22, was fatally shot earlier this year by officers in the backyard of his grandparents’ home in Sacramento, California. Crutcher, 40, was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2016 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
According to police, Guyger shot and killed Jean after returning in uniform to the South Side Flats, where they both had apartments, following her shift. She reported the shooting to dispatchers and she told officers who responded that she had mistaken Jean’s apartment for her own.
Many questions remain about what led Guyger to shoot Jean. Hall said the officer’s blood was drawn at the scene so that it could be tested for alcohol and drugs. Investigators haven’t released the results of those tests.
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, wondered whether race could have been a factor. Her son, who grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia before attending college in Arkansas, is black. Guyger is white.
“If it was a white man, would it have been different? Would she have reacted differently?” Allison Jean said Friday.
Jean wasn’t the first person shot by Guyger. She shot another man, Uvaldo Perez, on May 12, 2017, while she was on duty.
According to an affidavit in the case filed against Perez, police were looking for a suspect when Guyger and another officer were called to assist a third. Perez got out of a car and became combative with Guyger and another officer. A struggle began and Guyger fired her Taser at Perez, who then wrested it away from her. She then drew her gun and fired, wounding Perez in the abdomen.
Guyger was not charged in the 2017 shooting.
Sgt. Mike Mata, president of Dallas’ largest police employee organization, the Dallas Police Association, on Saturday called for an “open, transparent and full investigation of the event, the Dallas Morning News reported. He described Jean as an “amazing individual” and said that “if the grand jury deems necessary, this officer should have to answer for her actions in a court of law in Dallas County.”
Friends and family gathered Saturday at the Dallas West Church of Christ to remember Jean, who had been working for accounting firm PwC since graduating in 2016 from Harding University in Arkansas, where he often led campus religious services as a student. They described Jean as a devout Christian and a talented singer.
“Botham did everything with passion,” Allison Jean told the prayer service. “God gave me an angel.”
His uncle, Ignatius Jean, said the killing has devastated the family and left it searching for answers.
“You want to think it’s fiction … and you have to grapple with the reality,” he said.