DALLAS, Texas – That former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger shot Botham Jean in his own Dallas apartment is not in question, but prosecutors Tuesday sought to show that she was derelict in her efforts to save him afterward.
A second day of testimony kicked off with Guyger’s former colleagues talking about the procedures they followed that night and protocol for shooting investigations.
Officer Michael Lee, one of the first officers on the scene of the September 2018 shooting, described video captured on his body-worn camera that night. He explained it showed him and his partner, Kenan Blair, encountering Guyger down the hall from Jean’s apartment.
As Blair walks into the apartment with Guyger, she repeats an assertion she uttered 19 times during her 911 call: “I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was my apartment.”
Jean’s mother, sister and other family members left the courtroom before the video was played.
‘Was that evil of her to do?’
Guyger’s defense against the murder charge is that she mistakenly walked into the wrong apartment — Jean’s apartment is on the floor above hers — thought Jean was an burglar and opened fire, killing him.
She was fatigued and “in autopilot” from working 40 hours in four days, defense attorney Robert Rogers told jurors Monday, and she was not paying attention when she parked in the garage, where the numbers are not clearly marked on the floors.
“Was that evil of her to do? Was that evil of her not to count the floors? Was that just a reasonable reaction to ‘Oh my gosh I found a good spot?'” Rogers said.
The prosecution, however, says Guyger, a five-year veteran of the force, missed numerous signs she was on the wrong floor and in the wrong apartment — including a red doormat, a neighbor’s planter, a missing table and clutter on the kitchen counter — then failed to adequately try to save Jean after shooting him.
Lee, a six-year veteran who was in the same police academy class with Guyger and knew her, described his counterpart as upset and “very emotional” when he arrived.
The 26-year-old accountant is on the living room floor, alive but unresponsive, when police arrive, the bodycam footage shows. Blair immediately begins performing CPR as Lee dons blue gloves and tries to stanch the blood coming from his chest wound. Lee takes over efforts to resuscitate Jean later in the video.
Asked if he, Blair or any of the Dallas Fire-Rescue responders at any point stopped giving Jean 100% of their attention in efforts to revive him, Lee replied that they did not. As a citizen, he said, 100% is what he would expect from his fellow officers.
Despite being in the hallway when officers arrived, Guyger has said she provided first aid to Jean, according to an affidavit in the case.
Prosecutor: Guyger ambivalent after shooting
Tuesday’s line of questioning appears aimed at proving a point prosecutor Jason Hermus made in opening statements Monday: that Guyger was more concerned with her own life and career than she was with the dying Jean.
“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 told jurors.
While she was on the phone with a 911 operator, she also sent texts to her partner on the force, with whom she was intimate, saying, “I need you hurry” and “I f***ed up,” Hermus said. While investigators were able to recover those texts, Hermus said, they were unable to obtain others because Guyger allegedly deleted them in the day or two after the shooting.
Rather than texting a lover, Hermus said, Guyger should have devoted 100% of her attention to providing first aid — or at the very least, comfort — as Jean lay wounded on the floor.
Hermus also sought to show that Guyger violated protocol by opening fire in the first place. Jean was on his couch in his shorts, watching TV and eating vanilla ice cream when Guyger walked through the front door, Hermus said.
“He was doing no harm to anybody, which was his way,” the prosecutor said.
Under the circumstances, he said, protocol demanded that she take cover and call for backup instead of opening fire — which Lee confirmed was the normal order of business for police officers in such situations.
Instead, Guyger fired twice. One bullet missed, but the other bullet hit Jean in the chest and traveled downward through his heart, lung, stomach and intestine before resting between his stomach and back, he said.
The trajectory suggests Jean was either getting up from a chair when Guyger fired, or he was on his knees, trying to hide from her, Hermus said.
Guyger wasn’t the only one to disregard protocol, Hermus said. Her fellow officers did as well — specifically, Sgt. Breanna Valentine, who left Guyger alone when she was supposed to be separated from the scene and witnesses, and a Dallas police union official who took Guyger out of Valentine’s squad car while the investigation was ongoing.
Valentine told Hermus this would not have been normal procedure if the shooting suspect had been a civilian.
Hermus also asked Lee to describe video — showing Jean on the ground near his couch — with an indentation in the couch’s center cushion and a bowl of food on an ottoman in front of the cushion. Rogers had previously focused on Jean’s whereabouts during opening statements.
Guyger, Rogers said, walked in, looked up and saw what she thought was a burglar about 30 feet from her, her attorney said.
“She’s thinking, ‘Oh my God. There’s an intruder in my apartment,’ and she’s face-to-face with him. She’s within 10 yards of him, and he starts approaching her,” Rogers said.
She drew her gun, expecting it would make him stop, and ordered him to show his hands, Rogers said.
“But he drowns her out and he’s yelling, ‘Hey, hey,’ and he’s 25 feet and then he’s 20 feet, and it’s happening like this,” Rogers said, snapping his fingers.
Guyger “firmly and reasonably believed that she had no choice. She had no options but to use her gun to keep from dying,” he said.
The prosecution continued to call witnesses after Lee and Valentine. Guyger, who was fired following the shooting, is expected to take the stand when her defense team presents its case.