Dallas man slain by police officer at home, problematic
Numerous concerns have been raised over a Dallas police officer’s killing of a man at his home. The officer, Amber Guyger has been fired by the Dallas Police Department. Courtesy Kaufman County Sheriff's Office Slain Dallas
Numerous concerns have been raised over a Dallas police officer’s killing of a man at his home. The officer, Amber Guyger has been fired by the Dallas Police Department. Courtesy Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office
Slain Dallas man raises concerns; lawyer’s insight allays denied justice fears
By DONALD LEE, Contributing Writer
DALLAS — Slain Dallas man — Botham Jean, has created a laundry list of perceived problems associated with the handling of the Sept. 6 fatal shooting of a Dallas man by a police officer here who has since been fired.
From the varying accounts of what happened on the night officer Amber Guyger shot Botham Jean, 26, in his own apartment, to Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall calling on the Texas Rangers to take over the investigation, there has been grave concern from the public, namely Jean’s family and the black community, about whether there’ll be a balanced and fair investigation.
And from the call for a warrant to search the victim’s apartment, which resulted in marijuana reportedly being found, to authorities not saying whether they sought a warrant to search Guyger’s, or whether it turned up anything if they did search her apartment, a significant sector of the community is left scratching its head in bewilderment that more information has not been shared.
The latest turn of events centered on Guyger being fired on Monday.
“Guyger engaged in adverse conduct when she was arrested for manslaughter,” Hall said in a statement, weeks after Jean’s death. “Officer Guyger was terminated for her actions.”
Other issues that have many following the case eyeing the latest developments closely center on whether Guyger was “on duty” or “off duty” at the time of the shooting, and the manslaughter charge Guyger faces instead of murder.
“Here’s the significance of the DPD labeling Amber Guyger as an ‘off-duty’ officer,” says Daryl Kevin Washington, one of the lawyers for the Jean family. “If Guyger was ‘on duty,’ she could have been charged with aggravated assault by a public servant instead of manslaughter.”
Manslaughter carries a sentence of two years to 20 years in prison, Washington explains. Aggravated assault by a public servant carries a sentence of five years to 99 years in prison.
“No question, that officer was ‘on duty,’” Washington says.
The case will ultimately be turned over to a grand jury, which could still change the manslaughter charge to a murder charge.
Amber Webb Booker, a trial lawyer, and former prosecutor has been on social media denouncing “misinformation” concerning the case that has spread like wildfire.
“I see people being misinformed and acting on misinformation, and ultimately the things we want accomplished are not being accomplished because we’re not being strategic,” she said of public outcry. “We are acting from a place of hurt and emotion as opposed to channeling our emotion and our anger toward the greater cause of demanding that justice and fairness and equality be administered equally for everybody.”
Booker also said members of the community have a right to ask questions of the police department when they feel they’re being kept in the dark.
“Law enforcement officials are public servants and people often feel insecure and think that their question is too stupid or too basic or perhaps they should already know the answer to the question,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. “But if it comes down to it and you don’t know, your tax dollars pay these individuals’ salaries and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask them any questions, regardless of how basic it might be.”
She was referencing any ill will law enforcement officials may have about comments from the community that have been critical of how the Guyger case and others before it have been handled.
Earlier on, in answering the question of why she hadn’t fired Guyger, Hall said she couldn’t.
“I can’t do that because there are both local, state and federal laws that prohibit me from taking action,” she said. “There are civil service laws we have to adhere to.”
Though Hall has since fired Guyger, Booker said the police chief wasn’t really being straight with the public.
“She was being disingenuous,” Booker said of Hall’s earlier statements that she believed the firing would affect the case. “That is not true.”
In all actuality, Hall had, all along, “the power to bypass normal disciplinary procedures to make an immediate employment decision,” according to a widely reported DPD policy.
She ultimately reversed herself and terminated Guyger’s employment.
Booker has something else she wants the public to know.
The search of Jean’s apartment actually was standard procedure because “Amber Guyger’s actions made Botham Jean’s home a crime scene.” The warrant “was about getting evidence from a crime scene,” nothing more.
Booker said the warrant, itself, was not enough to get bent out of shape about.
“The issue is, ‘Why would DPD/law enforcement leak to the media that marijuana was found in Mr. Jean’s home?’ That is the issue.
“Crime scenes are searched every day as part of standard criminal procedure, and we never hear about it. Signing warrants to search the scene of a crime is a very standard, innocuous part of a judge’s job,” Booker said. “But it is not standard for the police to leak selective results of the search to the media to perpetuate a narrative that serves the individual that the organization has a vested interest in protecting.”
Brandon Birmingham, the judge who signed the warrant, has been unfairly called out by members of the community, Booker said.
“Remember Roy Oliver, the Balch Springs officer who killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards?” Booker said. “Do you know who denied Oliver’s attorney’s motion to transfer venue and remove Oliver’s case from Dallas County to a more sympathetic surrounding county, which would have almost certainly led to a different verdict? Judge Brandon Birmingham.”
Oliver was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Donald Lee is a Dallas-area freelance columnist and editor. He also is co-author of the Xulon Press-published book, “Married to Commitment.” Lee may be contacted at email@example.com or (225) 773-2248.