Dallas police officer charged with manslaughter 72 hours after shooting neighbor in his own apartment

By Harvey Simpkins
11 September 2018

On Thursday evening, an off-duty Dallas police officer shot her neighbor in his own apartment, apparently mistakenly believing she was in her own residence. On Sunday, almost 72 hours after the incident, the Dallas County District Attorney charged Officer Amber Guyger with manslaughter for the death of Botham Shem Jean, a 26-year-old native of Saint Lucia.

Guyger, who is white, had just completed a 12-hour shift when she walked into an apartment on the floor directly below her own. According to an arrest-warrant affidavit, upon arriving at Jean’s apartment, Guyger inserted a unique door key with an electronic chip into the keyhole; however, the door was already ajar, so the force of pushing the key inside opened the door.

According to the affidavit, made public Monday, Guyger saw only a silhouette across the room in a dark apartment before she shot Jean, who is black. Dallas police said that Guyger thought she was being robbed when she opened fire.

Cell phone footage from a neighbor taken shortly after the shooting shows Guyger on the phone, nervously pacing back and forth on a balcony. Later, paramedics are seen moving Jean on a gurney and performing CPR.

Rather than immediately arresting Guyger on suspicion of murder, Dallas Police instead announced on Friday that they had turned the investigation over to the Texas Rangers, a state law enforcement agency. That night, the police disclosed that the Rangers had interviewed Guyger and told the police department to “hold off” on arresting her because, supposedly, they wanted to investigate the matter further.

On Sunday evening, amid growing calls for the officer’s arrest and justified accusations that the police were showing deferential treatment to a fellow officer, Guyger turned herself into Kaufman County Jail, just outside Dallas. She was released from jail the same evening, after posting $300,000 bond. Despite the charges, Guyger, an officer for four years, remains on administrative leave. A grand jury will decide on the final charges to be placed on Guyger, with the possibilities including murder or manslaughter.

State and local officials have provided few other details about Thursday’s incident, including an explanation for why Guyger went to the wrong apartment and why a trained officer would use deadly force in such a situation. There is also no explanation for why no charges were forthcoming for almost three days. Investigators did confirm that Guyger has been tested for alcohol and drugs but there is no word on the results.

On Monday, Jean’s family expressed frustration at the lack of transparency from city and state officials, including District Attorney Faith Johnson. Family members told local reporters that Johnson and others had not been forthcoming with information about Jean’s death.

“The number one answer that I want is: What happened?” said Jean’s mother, Allison. “I've been told there are no answers yet.”

“The promise of transparency to this family has been a blank check,” Lee Merritt, the family attorney told CNN.

Merritt accurately captured the double standard in play when a cop is involved in suspected criminal activity, stating, “In any normal case where there's probable cause… You make an arrest,” Merritt said. “When law enforcement [is under investigation], for some reason, we don't use the normal protocol in dealing with criminal activity.”

“His killer was known to the district attorney at the time, and that person was able to leave Botham's home, return to her home and not face any consequences for three days,” Merritt added.

On Saturday a vigil was held to remember Jean, a 26-year-old accountant. “Botham loved mankind,” Jean’s mother said to those gathered. “Botham never saw color, never saw race. Botham wanted all of us to unite.”

At a press conference on Monday, a local Black Lives Matter activist, Dominique Alexander, defended Dallas Police Chief, U. Renee Hall, a black woman, for her handling of the incident and the decision to transfer the investigation to the Texas Rangers, stating, “I'm going to stand up when a black woman is disrespected.” Alexander said interference from Dallas city officials wrongly directed public dissatisfaction toward Hall for the delay in apprehending Guyger.

Alexander’s intervention on behalf of a police chief is reminiscent of Black Lives Matter activist’s defense of the Sacramento, California police chief, Daniel Hahn, that city’s first black police chief, in the wake of the police murder of Stephon Clark last March.

As with the Sacramento events, Black Lives Matter’s defense of the Dallas Police Chief once again exposes the bankrupt racialist perspective of the organization, which presents police violence as a function primarily of systemic racism and white supremacy. In reality, police violence is the outcome of its role in protecting the interests of the rich and ensuring their domination over a vastly unequal society.

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