A grand jury on Friday indicted former Dallas, Texas, police officer Amber Guyger on one charge of murder for the shooting of Botham Jean.
Guyger, who is white, shot 26-year-old Jean, an unarmed black man, inside his apartment in September. She told officers that she mistook it for her own apartment one floor down and thought Jean was an intruder. But Jean’s family has said that witnesses described hearing Guyger knock on Jean’s door and ask to be let in.
The Dallas Police Department fired Guyger, 30, shortly after the shooting in response to intense public pressure.
The Texas Rangers, who led the investigation, initially filed manslaughter charges in the apparent case of mistaken identity. But the district attorney’s office did its own investigation, interviewing over 300 witnesses. Prosecutors came to the conclusion that the shooting was intentional, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson told reporters at a press conference Friday.
After hearing the evidence this week, the grand jury decided to return a count of murder — a charge that carries much stiffer sentences but is harder to prove at trial.
“We thought that it was murder all along,” Johnson said Friday. “But we didn’t file this case… but we did what we had to get this case ready for the grand jury.”
Johnson lost her bid for reelection in November but said Friday that she “trust [sic] the DA-elect will continue to represent this family, and all of Dallas County, as he seeks justice for victims.”
Jean’s family had long pressed prosecutors to bring charges of murder against Guyger. Asked at Friday’s press conference how the family felt about the indictment, Jean’s father simply smiled and shook his head up and down, according to the Star-Telegram’s Nichole Manna.
Guyger turned herself in Friday and was released about an hour later on a $300,000 bond. Dallas County court records Friday afternoon showed both the manslaughter and murder charges against Guyger, but prosecutors are pursuing the murder charge.
Jean’s family has an ongoing civil case against the City of Dallas and the Dallas Police Department for what it says is a “pattern, practice, history, and custom of using excessive force against minorities.”
“Essentially, Officer Guyger was ill-trained, and as a result, defaulted to the defective DPD policy: to use deadly force even when there exists no immediate threat of harm to themselves or others,” the family said in its suit.
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, also spoke to reporters at Friday’s press conference. She said she’s is looking forward to a conviction for Guyger in the murder of her son.
“And more so of a penalty, the proper penalty that will cause her to reflect on what she has done and the pain she has caused,” Ms. Jean said. “So, I’m depending on you to continue to rally with us as we seek continued justice for him.”