Nearly two months after an off-duty, white Dallas police officer shot and killed Botham Jean — the 26-year-old black man whose apartment she claims to have mistaken for her own — his family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the now-fired cop.
The lawsuit was filed by Jean’s parents, Allison and Bertrum Jean, who live on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, and his sister, Allisa Findley of New York. It alleges that the police officer, Amber Guyger, used excessive force which violated Jean’s constitutional and civil rights during the September 6 shooting at the South Side Flats apartment building.
The suit also names Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall, the Dallas City Council and city manager for failure “to implement and enforce such policies, practices and procedure for the DPD (Dallas Police Department) that respected Jean’s constitutional rights,” according to reports published by the Dallas News.
Guyger, 30, had just finished her shift on September 6, and was still dressed in her police uniform when she returned home to shoot and kill Jean. She said she mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment, thinking it was her own, to find the silhouetted figure of a man in the doorway.
Amid public outcry over the lack of charges or an arrest, Guyger was charged with manslaughter three days after the shooting. She was later fired from the police department and a grand jury is weighing whether to indict her for manslaughter, murder or another charge. It could also decide she should not be charged with a crime.
Although Guyger wasn’t on duty when she shot Jean, a court could find the city liable if it determines she was acting as a police officer. However, most likely the city’s attorneys will argue she behaved as any frightened homeowner might in the same circumstance.
Jean’s death triggered anger and outrage in Dallas and beyond, largely because of the slow police reaction and perceived favorable treatment extended to Guyger. Additionally, Jean’s family and supporters expressed concerns that officials showed favoritism by not rigorously interviewing her immediately, and casting aspersions about Jean by revealing the presence of a small amount of marijuana in his apartment.
Meanwhile, the Jean family’s suit is likely to remain dormant until the criminal case has been resolved. Robert Rogers, Guyger’s attorney in the criminal case, had no immediate comment to the Jean family lawsuit. In earlier remarks to the news media, Rogers described Guyger as “completely devastated by what happened” and he labeled Jean’s death “a tragic mistake.”
Chris Caso, the interim city attorney in Dallas, told reporters Friday evening that he had just become aware of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.
Jean grew up in St. Lucia and came to the U.S. to attend Harding University in Arkansas. He remained in this country after finding work as an accountant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas.
He had told his family he planned to return home, where his mother is a former government official, to run for prime minister.