Officer who shot man ‘in wrong flat’ could face more serious charges

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The case against a white Dallas police officer who shot and killed a black neighbour in his own home will be presented to a grand jury, which could decide on more serious charges than manslaughter.

Dallas County district attorney Faith Johnson said her office will collect evidence surrounding Thursday’s fatal shooting by officer Amber Guyger, who told authorities she mistook her neighbour’s apartment for her own.

Guyger was arrested on Sunday night and booked into jail in neighbouring Kaufman County before being released on bond.

Lawyers for the victim’s family questioned why it took three days for Guyger to be charged. One said she should have been in handcuffs on the night of the shooting instead of three days later.

The family of Botham Jean
The family of Botham Jean (Shaban Athuman/Dallas Morning News/AP)

Asked why Guyger was allowed to surrender somewhere other than Dallas County’s jail, Ms Johnson said the decision was made by the Texas Rangers, who are also investigating.

Guyger had just ended a 15-hour shift when she returned in uniform to the South Side Flats apartment complex.

She parked on the fourth floor instead of the third, where she lived, according to an affidavit filed for the officer’s arrest warrant, possibly suggesting she was confused or disoriented.

When she put her key in the apartment door that was unlocked and slightly ajar, it opened. Inside, the lights were off. Then she saw a figure in the darkness, the affidavit said. The officer concluded that her apartment was being burgled and gave verbal commands to the figure, which ignored them. She then drew her weapon and fired twice, the affidavit said.

When she turned on the lights, she realised she was in the wrong unit, according to the affidavit, which appeared to be based almost entirely upon the officer’s account.

Dallas County medical examiner’s office said Mr Jean died of a gunshot wound to the chest. His death was ruled a homicide.

His mother said investigators had not given her family an account of what happened. Allison Jean told a news conference that she asked many questions but was told there are no answers yet.

The family hired lawyer Benjamin Crump, best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

“Black people in America have been killed by police in some of the most unbelievable manners,” Mr Crump said, citing “driving while black in our cars” and “walking while black in our neighbourhoods”.

Now, he said, “we are being killed living while black when we are in our apartments”.

On the day after the shooting, Police Chief U Renee Hall said her department was seeking manslaughter charges against Guyger, an officer for four year. But Mr Hall said on Saturday that the Texas Rangers asked her department to hold off because they had learned new information and wanted to investigate further before a warrant was issued.

The district attorney will also have the option of presenting more serious charges to the grand jury.

Guyger’s blood was drawn at the scene to be tested for alcohol and drugs, Ms Hall said, but authorities have not released results.

Allison Jean wondered whether race could have been a factor. Her son grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St Lucia before attending college in Arkansas.

“If it was a white man, would it have been different? Would she have reacted differently?” Ms Jean said.

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