Shots Fired


William Cho

Citizens of Dallas, Texas argue over the fairness of Amber Guyger’s sentencing after shooting a man in his apartment (Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to William Cho).

On September 6, 2018, an off-duty police officer fatally shot and killed Dallas citizen Botham Jean in his apartment. The officer, Amber Guyger, was returning home from a 13-hour shift, still in uniform, when she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own. After finding the door unlocked, Guyger entered to encounter Jean, whom she assumed was an intruder. Jean was shot within seconds of Guyger noticing him.

Guyger called 911 after shooting him and repeatedly said, “I thought it was my apartment.”

Two days later, a warrant for Guyger’s arrest was issued. The police Chief Ulysha Renee Hall of Dallas, Texas called in the Texas Rangers, who are law enforcement officers apart from the police, to investigate in order to avoid bias. On September 19, 2018, Guyger turned herself in with charges of manslaughter with bail set at $300,000. She posted bail and was released an hour later.

“At the very early stages of this investigation — initial indications were that they were what we consider [the] circumstances of an officer-involved shooting. However, as we continued this investigation it became clear that we were dealing with what appears to be a much different and very unique situation,” said police Chief Ulysha Renee Hall said following Guyger’s arrest.

Ultimately, the situation becomes complex when the question of intent comes into place. However, whether or not Guyger’s actions are viewed as manslaughter or murder remains the underlying question in this layered conflict. In the case of manslaughter, Amber Guyger killing Botham Jean was more of a mistake than it was intentional. Murder, on the other hand, points to the opposite side; Guyger intentionally killed Jean, whether out of fear or some other motive. For the jury, they quickly decided that Guyger’s actions leaned toward murder, essentially agreeing with the prosecutor’s argument.

“I understand the fear and thinking I have to protect myself, but she should have been responsible enough to realize that it wasn’t her apartment,” said junior Jesslyn Padilla. 

Prosecutors of the case claim the crime resulted from distraction. Amber Guyger was on the phone with another officer, whom she was romantically involved with before she entered the apartment. While taking the call, they believe she so focused on the conversation that she arrived at the wrong destination. Prosecutors pointed out that her training as an officer could have been used, so Guyger should’ve called for back-up instead of approaching an intruder.

Prosecutors asked Guyger if Jean would still be alive if she responded the way she was trained, and she simply said, “Yes, sir.”

Guyer could have faced up to a life sentence, but she received a 10-year sentence with parole offered after five years. When the sentencing was announced, Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt Botham, requested to hug Amber Guyger, offering forgiveness inspired by his Christian faith.

“I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you,” said Brandt Jean to Guyer.

In addition to the case, one of the three witnesses was killed in a drive-by shooting. Joshua Brown’s testimony was a key factor in the case, but he was shot two days after Guyger was sentenced. Community leaders started rumors that the Dallas Police Department was involved in Brown’s death.

The Dallas Police Department responded and warned leaders to be careful with their words “because their words may jeopardize the integrity of the city of Dallas and DPD.”

While Botham Jean’s brother forgave Guyger, others were less forgiving. Protesters expected at least 28 years for the former officer. Overall, the fallout of this case is a leading example of how the Dallas Police Department and other police departments deal with cases similar to Mr. Jean’s case. Whether or not the sentencing was fair, Allison Jean’s words still ring true. “There is much more to be done by the city of Dallas,” said Allison Jean. Not only is this statement true for this specific case, but it extends to America as a whole and how this country should strive to be the best it can be.