Off-duty police officer who murdered black neighbour while he ate ice cream is jailed

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Updated

October 03, 2019 08:41:44

A white US police officer has been sentenced to 10 years’ jail for shooting dead an unarmed black neighbour in his home, which she claimed to have mistaken for her own.

Key points:

  • Guyger had argued she mistook Botham Jean’s apartment for her own, which was directly below his
  • Prosecutors suggested she had been distracted by sexually explicit phone messages from her lover
  • The killing drew widespread attention as the latest in a string of police shootings of unarmed black men

It came a day after a jury convicted Amber Guyger of murder in the September 2018 killing of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old accountant at PwC.

The shooting drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

The basic facts of the unusual shooting were not in dispute throughout the trial.

Guyger, returning from a long shift that night, entered Mr Jean’s fourth-floor apartment in Dallas, Texas, and shot him. He had been eating a bowl of ice cream before she fired.

Guyger said she parked on the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was directly below his, and mistook him for a burglar.

After the sentencing, Mr Jean’s brother Brandt was allowed to address Guyger directly from the witness stand, where he told her he forgave her.

«I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you,» he said to the 31-year-old, before asking the judge: «I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug.»

The judge said he could, and the pair stood up, met in front of the bench and embraced while Guyger sobbed.

Prosecutors questioned how Guyger got it wrong

In a frantic emergency call played repeatedly during the trial, Guyger said nearly 20 times: «I thought it was my apartment.»

Her lawyers argued that the identical physical appearance of the apartment complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants going to the wrong apartments.

But prosecutors questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place.

They also asked why she did not call for backup instead of walking into the apartment if she thought she was being burglarised.

They suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages she had been exchanging with her police partner, who was also her lover.

Mixed reactions to jail sentence

Prosecutors had asked jurors to jail Guyger for at least 28 years, which is how old Mr Botham would have been were he still alive.

The former police officer could have been sentenced to spend up to life in prison, or as little as two years.

Guyger did not appear to react as the judge read out her sentence, but it prompted both boos and cheers from the crowd gathered outside.

As Mr Jean’s family walked out of the courtroom, a group began chanting, «No justice! No peace!»

After the guilty verdict was handed down on Tuesday, one of the Jean family lawyers hailed it as «a victory for black people in America».

AP

Topics:

race-relations,

murder-and-manslaughter,

crime,

law-crime-and-justice,

police,

courts-and-trials,

united-states

First posted

October 03, 2019 08:10:30

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