When a white ex-Dallas police officer recounted her thinking as she fired the two shots that killed an innocent black man in his own living room last year, she told a jury it was fear, not racism, that drove her to pull the trigger.
“This is not about hate,” she testified in court Friday. “It’s about being scared.”
But after a jury convicted Amber Guyger, 31, of murder Tuesday, prosecutors introduced text messages sent by the former officer that show her making offensive statements. In the texts, Guyger jokes about Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, mocks her black colleagues and discusses a dog that her friend warns “may be racist.”
Stay in the loop
The next time news breaks, hear about it first.
“It’s okay.. I’m the same,” Guyger wrote back about the dog, just days before she fatally shot 26-year-old Botham Jean in his Dallas apartment on Sept. 6, 2018. One minute later, she texted again: “I hate everything and everyone but y’all.”
Prosecutors will use Guyger’s texts, her social media posts and her disciplinary record as a police officer to argue for a harsher sentence, though they haven’t specified what length of prison term they will request. The jury will decide her sentence, which could range from five years to life in prison, without the possibility of probation.
The sentencing phase of the case will continue Wednesday, and the prosecution and defense will share additional testimony, including from Guyger, who is expected to testify for a second time, The Washington Post reported.
Other texts by Guyger already played an important role in her trial. Prosecutors argued a sexually explicit exchange with her partner on the Dallas police force distracted her as she walked to Jean’s apartment, which was one floor above her own. Guyger’s defense disputed that claim, saying the two had ended an affair months before. She mistakenly entered the wrong apartment because she was tired after a nearly 14-hour shift, her defense attorney argued, and then shot Jean twice, thinking he was a burglar.
That claim did not sway the jurors, who deliberated for five hours before reaching a unanimous guilty verdict around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The new texts introduced after the verdict showed her mocking black officers working for the Dallas Police Department with her partner, Officer Martin Rivera.
“Damn I was at this area with 5 different black officers !!!” Rivera texted Guyger on March 9, 2018. “Not racist but damn.”
Guyger echoed Rivera and added: “Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows.”
During a 2018 parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Guyger texted another officer about their lengthy shift as attendees celebrated the black civil rights activist’s legacy.
“When does this end lol,” read a text sent to Guyger. She replied: “When MLK is dead … oh wait …”
Prosecutors also showed images of Pinterest posts about guns and violence that Guyger had saved and commented on. One post showed a photo of a “Minion” character from the “Despicable Me” movies with the caption: “People are so ungrateful. No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.” Guyger commented about owning a gun on another meme that read, “I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me because I’m already dressed for your funeral.”
After the verdict, Guyger’s former supervisor, Dallas police Sgt. Robert Watson, also recounted filing an internal affairs referral after the officer allowed a handcuffed prisoner to escape her custody. She did not immediately report the full details of the incident, he said. But during cross-examination, Watson told the court he thought Guyger had been a dependable, hard-working officer.
When Jean’s mother and sister took the stand Tuesday, they spoke emotionally about their relationship with the 26-year-old accountant who had immigrated to the United States from St. Lucia.
Allison Jean took the stand and tearfully remembered her son’s life. He had placed 23rd on the island in the entrance exam that landed him a coveted spot at St. Lucia’s top high school. As a teen, he started a choir at his school and loved to sing. He moved to Arkansas to study accounting at Harding University before getting a job at financial firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. He would have been 28 on Sunday, she said.
“I always refer to him as the glue of my three kids,” she said.
Prosecutors played videos of Botham Jean singing at a worship service while his older sister, Allisa Findley, sat on the stand, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“I want my brother back,” she told the court.
In a red dress and pearls, Allison Jean wiped her eyes and told the jury how, while visiting her daughter in New York, she learned at 12:13 a.m. Sept. 7, 2018, that her son had been killed.
“My life has not been the same,” she said. “It has just been like a roller coaster. I cannot sleep; I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me. I almost am not able to work, but I just try to busy myself just to see if it will get out of my head. But it’s been very, very, very difficult.”
She told the court she had been sick often. She said she worried her younger son was not coping with his brother’s death.
“I have to try to keep the family together because everybody is in pain,” she said. “We had a very, very close family.”