Amber Guyger Fired From Dallas Police Department Over Botham Jean Shooting

Amber Guyger has been fired by the Dallas Police Department, now it's up to the justice system to hold her accountable for her actions.

Amber Guyger, the off-duty Dallas police officer who shot and killed Botham Shem Jean under circumstances that remain entirely suspicious, has been fired from her job:

The Dallas Police Department on Monday fired an officer who fatally shot her neighbor inside his apartment this month, an episode that gripped the city and led to protests over the killing of an unarmed black man in his own home at the hands of law enforcement.

The department’s chief, U. Reneé Hall, announced the termination of the officer, Amber R. Guyger, citing her arrest in the killing of Botham Shem Jean, who lived above Ms. Guyger in a Dallas apartment complex. Ms. Guyger, who was off duty, entered Mr. Jean’s apartment the evening of Sept. 6 and fired her service weapon twice, striking him once in the torso.

Ms. Guyger, 30, was placed on administrative leave immediately after the shooting and charged with manslaughter several days later. Chief Hall faced mounting pressure to fire Ms. Guyger, but she said at a town hall-style meeting last week that state and federal laws prevented her from doing so, without citing specifics. She also argued that taking action could harm the investigation into the death of Mr. Jean, 26.

S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the Jean family, said that Chief Hall called on Sunday night to tell them that despite those concerns, she planned to dismiss Ms. Guyger.

During the call, “she had to answer some tough questions specifically about why it took so long,” Mr. Merritt told reporters on Monday, adding that the family saw Ms. Guyger’s firing as a “victory.”

Chief Hall said Monday afternoon that she had waited until the “critical portion” of the investigation was completed, but she did not elaborate. “As a police chief, my job is to ensure the integrity, the highest level of integrity in this criminal investigation, and that is what I did,” Chief Hall said.

Mr. Merritt said that Mr. Jean would be buried on Monday in his home country, St. Lucia.

I am not sufficiently aware of what the law might be in Texas, or what the terms of the contract that the City of Dallas has with the relevant police union might be, so I’m not going to comment on whether or not the Police Chief was correct in saying at least initially that her hands were tied when it came to immediately fire Ms. Guyger. Ordinarily, these contracts have specific procedures that have to be followed or findings that have to be made before an officer can be dismissed from the force in the manner that Guyger has been. At least some of these circumstances require a hearing and formal charges and allow the officer to be represented by counsel and/or a union delegate. In other cases, there are some circumstances that allow authorities to dismiss an officer in an expedited manner. Whether or not that applied in this case or not is a legal question that will presumably be resolved in the future if Ms. Guyger chooses to appeal or contest her dismissal in some fashion.

Beyond the dismissal, of course, the charges against Guyger remain pending, and many Dallas residents continue to contend that she is not being properly charged in the case. As I noted in my original post on this case, the circumstances of this shooting seem to clearly show that Guyger’s version of events simply doesn’t add up and that her conduct here calls for more than just a manslaughter charge. Specifically, the claim on her part that the door to Jean’s fifth-floor apartment, which she contends she thought was her fourth-floor apartment. was ajar when she arrived at what she thought was her apartment, for example, doesn’t explain why neighbors report hearing a woman’s voice demanding to be let in prior to the shooting. Since Guyger lives alone and apparently had no visitors at the time of the shooting, why would she be demanding to be let into her own home? Additionally, the fact that nobody heard Guyger identify herself as a police officer or otherwise say anything other than demanding to be let in raises questions about her version of events, as does the fact that it simply doesn’t sound credible that Guyger, a trained police officer, would somehow mistake Jean’s fourth-floor apartment door for her fifth-floor door.

Under Texas law, murder is defined as “intentionally or knowingly caus[ing] the death of an individual.” Manslaughter, which is what Guyger is currently charged with is defined as occurring when a person “recklessly” causes death. As I learned early on in my Criminal Law class in law school, the important thing about the intent needed to charge someone with murder or any other crime involving intent is that it doesn’t necessarily require pre-planning and it isn’t something that can only exist in circumstances where there has been a considerable amount of time. Intent for criminal purposes is something that can form in an instant and simply means that one is acting consciously rather than mistakenly. As David French put it in National Review earlier this month, while one can make the case that Guyger acted recklessly when she entered the wrong apartment, it seems clear that she acted intentionally when she made the choice to shoot Mr. Jean. For this reason alone, a murder charge seems to be entirely warranted based on the facts as we know them. The case is currently pending before a Grand Jury, which could potentially increase the charges against Guyger, but we’ll have to wait to see how that process plays out.

Quite honestly, it seems clear that if it were not for the fact that she is a police officer, Guyger would have been taken into custody immediately, interrogated by officers, and, most likely, charged with murder. Presumably, the reason that she wasn’t is due to the fact that Dallas police officers have protections similar to those available to officers in other parts of the country that allow them to prevent questioning for a certain period of time, sometimes as long as 2-3 days. The obvious advantage of this, of course, is that it allows an officer involved in a questionable shooting sufficient time to come up with might sound like a plausible story, something that the average criminal suspect isn’t able to do unless they invoke their right to counsel. While there might be a good argument in favor of this practice, it doesn’t always make sense. This is particularly true in this case where the shooting occurred while Guyger was off-duty. In those situations, one could make an argument that, as a matter of policy, the normal deference allowed to a police officer should not apply and people like Guyger should be treated the same way a civilian would.

Firing Guyger was obviously the proper thing to do here, now it’s up to the justice system to see that she is properly held accountable for her actions. That can start with the Grand Jury increasing the charges that she faces to meet the seriousness of the offense that she has committed.

 

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. george says:

    Seems to be pretty clearly murder.

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  2. Mu says:

    Pretty sure the police union is going to argue that even if you’re off duty, and even if you’re in the wrong place, as a uniformed police officer you have to make split second decisions and that she was feeling threatened for a life. And it being Dallas I see a hung jury.

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  3. Bill says:

    @george:

    Seems to be pretty clearly murder.

    And the Dallas police are doing their darndest in order for Guyger not to be found guilty of it. Would you believe warrants were issued to search Guyger’s apartment but weren’t executed before she moved out of her living place?

    A few things I will repeat- Today’s police motto- To serve and protect our OWN
    One day the police (or other people in power) will go too far and this country will have a revolution.

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  4. MarkedMan says:

    I’m curious to see how our resident Trumpers will react to this. Just last week they were 100% in on the fact that Jean had brought it on himself because… well some Trumpish kind of reason.

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  5. James Pearce says:

    And I’m curious to see if some folks still think this killing was racially motivated…

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce: And I’m curious to see if you will ever admit that race plays a role in how police react to a person, whether they be a suspect, a witness, or a victim.

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  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    My God, it’s almost like a cop can’t enter a black man’s house and shoot him without it being a big deal.

    @James Pearce:
    I haven’t been following the case – because I don’t really care – but off the top of my head it sounds like an affair gone wrong. The race issue may be in the question of charging the officer. But again, this is one where I’m happy to let a jury do the work.

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  8. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    And I’m curious to see if you will ever admit that race plays a role in how police react to a person, whether they be a suspect, a witness, or a victim.

    I’m happy to admit it when it happens.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    off the top of my head it sounds like an affair gone wrong.

    Well, I’ve looked into it, and all indications are that a small and confused cop (who happens to be a white woman) mistakenly broke into an apartment she thought was her own and killed the occupant (who happens to be a black man) when she got scared.

    There was no lover’s quarrel. There was no racism. Just a scared cop and a dead man.

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  9. Bill says:

    @James Pearce:

    Well, I’ve looked into it, and all indications are that a small and confused cop (who happens to be a white woman) mistakenly broke into an apartment she thought was her own and killed the occupant (who happens to be a black man) when she got scared.

    There was no lover’s quarrel. There was no racism. Just a scared cop and a dead man.

    That is what the lie Guyger has been telling Guyger has been claiming since the very beginning and for a long list of reasons sounds like utter horse crap. What a cop says happened and what actually does happen are often two totally different things. This cop claimed a black man threatened her with a golf club. Watch the video, and you tell me how that man made a threatening gesture.

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  10. Paul L. says:

    Amber Guyger will be found not guilt and get her job back with back pay.

    The Police and Prosecution are intentionally screwing up the investigation for the thin blue line.

    1st Rule of Policing: Police have the right and the duty to go home at the end of each watch. It does not matter how many non-law enforcement personnel are injured or killed or have their “rights” violated to achieve this goal as Police are entitled to impunity for their violence and protection from harm above all others.

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  11. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce:

    And I’m curious to see if some folks still think this killing was racially motivated…

    We don’t know, because Guyger version of the facts does not make sense and is contradicted by other witnesses.

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  12. James Pearce says:

    @Bill:

    Guyger has been claiming since the very beginning and for a long list of reasons sounds like utter horse crap.

    Yes, it’s weird. But weirder than “lover’s quarrel ends in murder” or “KKKop executes upstairs neighbor in the middle of the night?”

    Other cops have lied about their shootings. That’s not reason to think Guyger did, though. Other cops have executed black men. That’s not reason to think Guyger did, though.

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Guyger version of the facts does not make sense

    In my mind, Guyger’s version is the only one that does makes sense. The other day I read a story about a guy who got flesh-eating bacteria from a dog lick and lost all his limbs. Freak occurrences are freak occurrences, you know?

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  13. Grewgills says:

    It will probably go down like it does in most instances of police murder and for the same reason.

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  14. Monala says:

    @James Pearce: except she doesn’t have just one version, she has multiple ones. In one, the door was ajar, and she entered and saw a silhouette. In another, Jean opened the door while she was jiggling with it. In one story, she issued orders that he didn’t heed; in earlier versions of her tale, she made no mention of giving him orders.

    Which of these versions do you feel like makes sense, and why?

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  15. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: Given that “scared cop” in too many cases has meant “I can shoot whoever I want”, I’d prefer if we could get rid of cops who are scared. They’re far too dangerous to the rest of us.

    (And if it’s “I’m a small female so am going to be more easily scared and need to pack more firepower and use it at all times”, then let’s stop allowing small females to enter the police force. You’re supposed to PROTECT the people you walk among, not shoot them.)

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  16. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. That mug shot makes her look like a meth-head.

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  17. James Pearce says:

    @Monala:

    Which of these versions do you feel like makes sense, and why?

    I see those varying accounts as attempts to justify the shooting as self defense, which is a cop’s instinct and….well, didn’t work anyway.

    One question I had about the case was how could she not know she was on the right floor? You don’t walk up 4 flights of stairs instead of 3. You don’t mean to press 3 on the elevator and, oops, I pressed 4. So how to account for this seemingly inexplicable screw-up?

    Turns out the building has a multi-story parking garage, and she drove up to 4 instead of 3. Having heard that, and having myself been completely disoriented by a parking garage a time or two, I found that to be a suitable explanation.

    The doormat. When she saw the doormat, did she immediately realize she was on the wrong floor? Or is encountering something unexpected like that just going to be even more disorienting? She was probably thinking, “Who put this doormat in front of my door?” And then when her key didn’t work, or whatever happened to get the door opened, is it going to immediately occur to her that she made a mistake and is on the wrong floor? Or is each new piece of information just going to add to her confusion. Doormat when there shouldn’t a doormat. Key’s not working when it should be working. There’s someone in what should be an empty apartment. If I gave you those three facts you could come up with all kinds of weird explanations before you got to “Got off on the wrong floor” up to and including “Holy shit, I’ve actually entered the Twilight Zone.”

    None of this excuses the shooting, so I don’t see why it’s such a bone of contention. It just explains it better than “more good ole fashioned racism.”

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Easy peasy. She was unjustly terminated, probably illegally, in order to placate a bunch of n*****rs and w** b**ks. MAWA!

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  19. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’d prefer if we could get rid of cops who are scared. They’re far too dangerous to the rest of us.

    I share this preference.

    But the Guyger shooting isn’t going to be about the danger of the “shoot when you’re scared” approach to police work, unfortunately. A white cop killed another black man. Gotta glitch out on that for a while and leave all the other stuff for another time.

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  20. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Paul L.: This may be the first time you and I have agreed on something. The third part is a little overwrought for where I’ve lived, but if I can admit that others have had that same experience even if I haven’t.

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  21. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce:

    Other cops have lied about their shootings. That’s not reason to think Guyger did, though. Other cops have executed black men. That’s not reason to think Guyger did, though.

    Not a reason to eliminate it from the realm of possibility, either. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t think her explanation works for me. Your mileage, obviously, varies.

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  22. An Interested Party says:

    …mistakenly broke into an apartment she thought was her own…

    So she was that tired/disoriented that she thought an apartment on a totally different floor than her own was her apartment? And she needed to break into her own apartment? These ideas sound a lot more ridiculous than saying that race did play a part in this murder…

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  23. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “If I gave you those three facts you could come up with all kinds of weird explanations before you got to “Got off on the wrong floor” up to and including “Holy shit, I’ve actually entered the Twilight Zone.”

    I’m sorry, but my experience with those scenaria themselves is that I go to got off on the wrong floor first. And I can’t even keep Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer straight.

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  24. James Pearce says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Not a reason to eliminate it from the realm of possibility, either. I don’t know what happened, but I don’t think her explanation works for me.

    If she was a doctor or a lawyer or a typesetter, it could have been one of those things they laughed about when they saw each other at the mailbox. “Remember that time I got off on the wrong floor?” “Oh, man, you scared me sooo bad.”

    Think about it.

    I’m sorry, but my experience with those scenaria themselves is that I go to got off on the wrong floor first.

    One time I wandered up and down every aisle of the west lot at DIA only to discover I had parked on the east lot. My girlfriend at the time was so mad. She couldn’t believe I would do something so stupid.

    Well…I did.

    You drive around in circles in those things and everything looks the same. Maybe you park on the ramp and you’re between floors. Me? I’m always looking for signs. “Okay, we’re on 3.” Sometimes I even take a picture. Tricky things, those parking garages.

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  25. An Interested Party says:

    @James Pearce: It’s a pity you don’t live in Dallas…I’m sure Guyger’s lawyers would love to have you on the jury that will be considering her fate…

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  26. Monala says:

    @James Pearce: I think you’re giving her way too many excuses. I’ve never tried to enter the wrong apartment, but I have tried to enter the wrong car, if one that’s the same make, model, and color is parked near where I think I parked mine. Sometimes even after some very long work days. Usually it only takes one or two things to register that it’s not my car: the fuzzy dice or car seat I don’t have, the missing items on the passenger seat, or the very obvious fact that the keys don’t work.

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  27. James Pearce says:

    @Monala:

    I think you’re giving her way too many excuses.

    Nah, just trying to understand what happened, while also not being in any big hurry to agendize it.

    (As far as I know, this is the first usage of the verb “agendize,” a word I just made up.)

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  28. James Pearce says:

    @James Pearce: Never mind. Apparently it’s a real word and has a dictionary definition and everything.

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  29. SKI says:

    @James Pearce: How do any of these account for the witness statements of her banging on his door?

    My bet: she was dog tired after a long shift, they had beefed before over her wanting to sleep and him making noise. She went down and confronted him, he told her to pound sand, she lost control and shot him.

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  30. Gustopher says:

    @James Pearce: I think it’s entirely possible to have the series of brain farts that makes going to the wrong floor and apartment entirely plausible. Absent any other reason, I’m willing to accept that.

    The officer’s “shoot-first, ask questions later” approach is entirely unjustified, and is likely the result of her training with the Dallas Police force.

    But, race enters into it — if it was a white guy, he wouldn’t have seemed so threatening, and even if she did kill him, the aftermath would be different.

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  31. James Pearce says:

    @SKI:

    How do any of these account for the witness statements of her banging on his door?

    Eye witnesses are unreliable. None of those people had any idea of what they saw or heard, and that has to be remembered when considering their accounts.

    I haven’t seen anything that makes me think Guyger and Jean knew each other.

    @Gustopher:

    But, race enters into it — if it was a white guy, he wouldn’t have seemed so threatening, and even if she did kill him, the aftermath would be different.

    Race definitely enters into how this is covered in the media and how people are processing it. But I don’t think it had anything to do with the crime itself.

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  32. Bill says:

    @James Pearce:

    Eye witnesses are unreliable. None of those people had any idea of what they saw or heard, and that has to be remembered when considering their accounts.

    Police have a long history of making false statements and receiving absolutely no punishment for it even though their lies are more likely to lead someone to be arrested.

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  33. James Pearce says:

    @Bill: If I’m going to think about this in stereotypes, why should I just rely on the ones about cops?

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