Amber Guyger sobbed on the witness stand Friday as she described killing Botham Jean, an unarmed neighbor Guyger shot after she mistook his apartment for her own last September.
Guyger, 31, is on trial for murder in the Sept. 6, 2018, killing of Jean, 26, in his apartment at the South Side Flats, the complex where both lived two blocks from police headquarters in downtown Dallas. She testified Friday that she had lived at the complex for less than two months before the homicide.
Judge Tammy Kemp had to call a brief recess after Guyger wept while describing her approach and entrance into Jean’s apartment. Her lips already trembling as she fought back tears, Guyger began crying openly when her defense lawyer, Toby Shook, asked her to step down from the stand and demonstrate how she was carrying her 30-pound ballistic vest, backpack and lunchbox as she got to the door.
Guyger had testified that she always carried her equipment in her left hand because she’d been trained to keep her right hand, her gun hand, free at all times.
When Guyger began to sob, lead prosecutor Jason Hermus requested a break.
“No, keep going, I want to tell …,” Guyger said, her words becoming unintelligible.
Kemp recessed the proceedings to let Guyger compose herself. Photos from inside the courtroom showed that Jean’s father, Bertram Jean, also wept during the former police officer’s testimony.
Tragedy unfolded the night of Jean’s killing when the former patrol officer, who had been with the Dallas Police Department for four years prior to the shooting, mistakenly went to the fourth floor of the apartment complex instead of the third, where her apartment was located.
Jean’s fourth-floor apartment, unit 1478, was directly above Guyger’s, which was numbered 1378. She lived there alone with her dog, a Yorkie named Ranger, she testified Friday.
Guyger’s defense team has argued that Guyger, exhausted after a 14-hour shift, made a “tragic, but innocent” mistake when she went into Jean’s apartment.
“I was just ready to go home,” Guyger said when Shook asked about her state of mind as she walked from her truck to what she believed was her apartment.
Guyger testified after the break that the door to Jean’s apartment was ajar when she approached it and inserted her electronic key fob into the keyhole. Her keys, which evidence photos showed were still in the keyhole when investigators arrived, further forced the door open.
Testimony earlier in the trial indicated the locking mechanism of Jean’s door was damaged, which could have allowed the door to remain unlatched. Guyger further testified that she occasionally had trouble properly locking her own apartment door.
Guyger said she heard “loud shuffling” inside the apartment and, when she opened the door, she saw the silhouette of a person in the dark room. She said when she saw Jean in the apartment, she believed he was an intruder.
“Everything’s happening all at once,” Guyger told jurors as she demonstrated how she opened the door. “I was scared to death.”
She said her heart rate “skyrocketed” when she believed someone was in her apartment, describing it as “a feeling you never want to feel again.” She compared the fear to what a person might feel a split second before a car crash, when he or she sees the collision coming.
Shook asked what she was looking for when she opened the door.
“Since I knew somebody was moving around inside my apartment, I wanted just to find that threat,” Guyger testified.
Watch Guyger reenact the shooting below.
She said she pulled her service weapon with her right hand -- her vest, backpack and lunchbox were in her left -- and screamed at Jean: “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!”
Jean yelled, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” in what she described as an aggressive voice when he saw her in his apartment, Guyger said. She said he began walking toward her in a “fast-paced walk.”
She said she was afraid because she still could not see if he was armed.
“I thought that he was coming at me, and because I couldn’t see his hands, that he was going to kill me,” she testified.
Guyger said she fired two shots from her position inside the doorway. Only when she went further into the apartment did she look at the furnishings and realize she was not in her home.
“It started hitting me that this guy, I have no idea who he is, and that’s when everything just started to spin,” she testified, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Guyger said during her testimony that the silhouetted figure she saw was standing near a window, “pacing back and forth.”
Dr. Chester Gwin, the Dallas County medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Jean's body, testified Wednesday, however, that Jean was likely crouching, cowering, ducking or in the process of standing from the couch when he was killed.
He also could have been lying on his back when the fatal bullet entered above his left nipple and traveled downward through his chest, striking a rib and tearing into his heart. From there, the bullet went through his diaphragm, stomach and intestines before embedding in a muscle near his spine.
According to the News, Gwin said the injury to Jean's heart was the cause of death.
Guyger testified that she remained scared after the shooting, at which point she dialed 911. She also texted her partner, Officer Martin Rivera, with whom she had an extramarital affair.
Hermus argued during the prosecution’s case that Guyger was preoccupied with thoughts of a sexual rendezvous with Rivera planned for later the night of Jean’s killing. Text messages, including some sexually suggestive ones, and phone records showed Guyger was talking to and texting Rivera throughout her shift that day.
Guyger testified Friday that the sexual component to her relationship with Rivera ended in late 2017 or early 2018. She denied that they planned to meet the night she killed Jean but admitted that they continued to flirt with one another through text messages.
The suggestive Sept. 6 text messages found on her cellphone were sent jokingly during some down time in her shift, Guyger indicated. She testified that Rivera had never been to her apartment at the South Side Flats.
She was on the phone with Rivera as she parked on the wrong level of the parking garage the night of the shooting. Testimony during the state's case showed a gap of three minutes and 40 seconds between the end of Guyger's conversation with Rivera and her 911 call stating she'd shot someone.
Guyger also texted Rivera twice in the aftermath of the shooting, while Jean lay dying on his living room floor.
“I need you … hurry,” one text read.
“I (expletive) up,” the second stated.
“I was by myself with someone I had just shot,” Guyger testified, according to the News. “I was alone with him, and that’s the scariest thing you could ever imagine, and I just wanted help.”
Hermus, who has portrayed Guyger as caring more about her career as a police officer than trying to save the mortally wounded man’s life, argued earlier this week that Guyger was texting on her cellphone outside the apartment while responding officers tried in vain to save Jean's life.
On Friday, during cross-examination, Hermus told Guyger to imagine the scenario from Jean’s shoes. During the prosecution’s case, testimony indicated that Jean was sitting on his couch, eating ice cream, when Guyger barged into his home.
“Can you imagine Mr. Jean’s perspective?” Hermus asked. “An intruder barging into his apartment. And then having been shot and fallen and being alone in that apartment.
“Can’t you imagine that being a little bit scarier than you just being alone at the moment?”
“Yes, sir,” Guyger responded.
Watch body camera footage of officers arriving at the scene of the shooting. Warning: The video contains graphic footage, though Jean's body is not shown.
Hermus, who the News reported is himself a former police officer, questioned why Guyger opened the door if she heard shuffling noise from outside that indicated an intruder was inside. He ticked off the options she had, including taking cover and calling for help.
“You chose Option A, which was to go in and find the threat, correct?” Hermus asked.
“It was the only option that went through my head,” Guyger said.
The prosecutor noted her actions “in the most critical moment of the entire thing” went against her police training. Guyger responded that her training would be in play while out on a call, but indicated it wouldn’t be at home.
That statement appeared to go against her previous testimony about always carrying her equipment into her apartment in her non-dominant hand, allowing herself to always have access to her weapon.
“Ma’am, your general orders indicate that you are on duty 24/7,” Hermus said.
“They do,” she agreed.
“And you know that training is designed for your safety, first and foremost,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” Guyger said.
Watch a portion of the prosecution's cross-examination of Guyger below.
Because of the close proximity of the apartment complex to the police station, Hermus said, backup officers could have been there within two minutes -- as they were after Guyger shot Jean.
Hermus also pointed out that shooting Jean in the chest was in accordance with Guyger’s training.
“When you aimed and pulled the trigger at Mr. Jean, shooting him in center mass right where you are trained, you intended to kill Mr. Jean?” the prosecutor asked.
“I did,” Guyger said.
The News reported that the exchange was an important one. Guyger’s intent that night is a crucial element for prosecutors to prove their murder case, because it is the element that sets murder apart from manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. She was initially charged with manslaughter, but a grand jury in November indicted her on a murder charge.
Guyger claimed in her testimony that she called 911 while kneeling next to Jean’s body, leaving momentarily to look at the apartment number so the dispatcher could direct responding officers to the right place. In audio of the 911 call, she can be heard talking to Jean, pleading with him to get up and, later in the call, assuring him help was on the way.
Jean could be heard moaning in the audio.
Listen to the 911 call below.
Guyger also testified that she started doing chest compressions with her left hand after returning to where Jean lay.
“The state he was in, I knew it wasn’t good,” Guyger said of Jean’s condition, according to the News.
Prosecutors have argued that Guyger lied when she told investigators she attempted CPR on Jean. The first officers to respond to the scene testified, and body camera footage showed, that Guyger met them outside the apartment.
Testimony earlier this week also showed that Guyger had no blood on her uniform and that blue rubber gloves in her pocket, which officers carry in case they have to render first aid to someone, had not been used.
Hermus asked Guyger if she was properly trained, as a police officer, in how to administer CPR. She said she was and admitted that she didn’t try to perform CPR properly on Jean.
The prosecutor also questioned why she didn’t use the unopened pack of combat gauze she carried in her backpack, as well as other first aid items, to stop the heavy bleeding coming from Jean’s bullet wound.
“It never crossed my mind,” Guyger replied, according to the News.
Hermus also attempted during cross-examination to show that Guyger never gave Jean commands to show her his hands before shooting him. He pointed out that none of Jean’s neighbors at South Side Flats testified to hearing any shouting from the apartment.
“I can’t tell you why,” Guyger said.
“It’s because you didn’t say it,” Hermus responded.
“That’s not true,” Guyger said.
Guyger wept openly on the stand as she was asked more questions about why she fired her gun at Jean that night.
“I was scared whoever was inside of my apartment was going to kill me, and I’m so sorry,” Guyger said through tears.
Guyger said she has “to live with (Jean’s death) every single day,” according to the News. She said she wishes their roles had been reversed that night.
“I wish he was the one with the gun and killed me,” she testified. “I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life.”
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.