DALLAS (AP) – A white Dallas police officer who said she mistook her black neighbour’s apartment for her own when she fatally shot him was arrested on a manslaughter charge.
Officer Amber Guyger was booked into the Kaufman County Jail after being taken into custody on Sunday, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a news release. The department said the investigation in the off-duty shooting is ongoing and that no additional information was available.
A jail employee said Guyger was released on bond. Online records initially showed she was in custody, but she later was not listed on the jail inmate roster.
Guyger fatally shot 26-year-old Botham Jean on Thursday at Jean’s apartment. Lawyers for Jean’s family had been calling for Guyger’s arrest, saying the fact that she had remained free days after the shooting showed she was receiving favourable treatment. They held a news conference on Sunday night, shortly before the arrest was announced, making another plea for the officer to be taken into custody and saying their team had presented new evidence — a witness and video footage — to prosecutors. They didn’t provide details.
The family attorneys weren’t available for comment after the arrest came.
On Saturday, one of the attorneys, S Lee Merritt, said the man’s loved ones weren’t calling on authorities to jump to conclusions or to deny Guyger her right to due process. But he said they wanted Guyger “to be treated like every other citizen, and where there is evidence that they’ve committed a crime, that there’s a warrant to be issued and an arrest to be made”.
The group Mothers Against Police Brutality said the arrest is a “first step” toward justice and accountability but should have come sooner. Co-founder Sara Mokuria said the group expects transparency in the case going forward.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings tweeted a statement on Sunday night in which he thanked investigators, asked for continued prayers for Jean’s family and said he appreciated that citizens and community leaders “were so respectful of the investigative process over these past few days”.
Police Chief U Renee Hall said the day after the shooting that her department was seeking manslaughter charges against Guyger, 30, a four-year veteran of the police force. But Hall said Saturday that the Texas Rangers, who have taken over the investigation, asked her department to hold off because they had learned new information and wanted to investigate further before a warrant was issued.
Meanwhile, Jean’s family also hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who is best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.
According to police, Guyger shot and killed Jean after returning in uniform to the South Side Flats, where they both had apartments, following her shift. She reported the shooting to dispatchers and told officers who responded that she had mistaken Jean’s apartment for her own.
Many questions remain about what led her to shoot Jean. Hall said the officer’s blood was drawn at the scene so that it could be tested for alcohol and drugs. Investigators haven’t released the results of those tests.
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, wondered whether race could have been a factor. Her son, who grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St Lucia before attending college in Arkansas, is black. Guyger is white.
“If it was a white man, would it have been different? Would she have reacted differently?” Allison Jean said Friday.
Jean wasn’t the first person shot by Guyger. She shot another man, Uvaldo Perez, on May 12, 2017, while on duty.
According to an affidavit in the case filed against Perez, police were looking for a suspect when Guyger and another officer were called to assist a third. Perez got out of a car and became combative with Guyger and another officer. A struggle began and Guyger fired her Taser at Perez, who then wrested it away from her. She then drew her gun and fired, wounding Perez in the abdomen.
Guyger was not charged in the 2017 shooting.
Sgt Mike Mata, president of Dallas’ largest police employee organisation, the Dallas Police Association, on Saturday called for an “open, transparent and full investigation of the event,” the Dallas Morning News reported. He described Jean as an “amazing individual” and said that “if the grand jury deems necessary, this officer should have to answer for her actions in a court of law in Dallas County.”
Friends and family gathered Saturday at the Dallas West Church of Christ to remember Jean, who had been working for accounting firm PwC since graduating in 2016 from Harding University in Arkansas, where he often led campus religious services as a student.
“Botham did everything with passion,” Allison Jean told the prayer service. “God gave me an angel.”
His uncle, Ignatius Jean, said the killing has devastated the family and left it searching for answers.
“You want to think it’s fiction and you have to grapple with the reality,” he said.