Photo: Tom Fox (The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)
Amber Guyger took the stand in her own defense Friday morning, occasionally breaking down in tears as she recalled what happened the night she walked into her neighbor Botham Jean’s apartment and shot him dead in his living room. Her testimony marks the first public comments the 31-year-old former Dallas Police officer has made since Jean’s killing.
“I wish he was the one with the gun and killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life, and I am so sorry. This is not about hate; it’s about being scared,” Guyger told the court. The Dallas Morning News observed that Guyger “[seemed] to look directly at Jean’s parents as she spoke.”
“I feel like a terrible person. I feel like crap. I hate that I have to live with this every day of my life. I ask God for forgiveness and I hate myself every day,” she said, in tears.
Guyger maintained, as she has since the deadly shooting in September 2018, that she thought Jean was a burglar in her home and wasn’t aware she was in the wrong apartment until after she had shot him.
From the Dallas Morning News:
She said she was scared when she heard “shuffling” inside what she believe to be her apartment. When she opened the door, she saw a silhouette of a person in the dark, she said.
“I knew someone was moving around inside my apartment so I wanted just to find that threat,” Guyger said.
She pulled her gun with her right hand — her backpack, lunchbox and police vest were in the other —and shouted at Jean, she testified.
“Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!” she yelled, according to her testimony.
She said Jean began walking toward her quickly and yelled, “Hey, hey, hey!” in an aggressive tone before she fired twice from where she was standing in the door frame.
Though Guyger claimed Jean had lunged at her as she told him to show his hands, prosecutors argued that Jean was in his living room eating a bowl of ice cream when she opened his door. The medical examiner who performed Jean’s autopsy testified earlier that the bullet that killed Jean entered his body from a downward angle, suggesting that Jean may have been bent over or on his back when Guyger shot him.
Guyger’s defense argued that Jean may have crouched down right before the shooting, reports USA Today.
Assistant District Attorney and lead prosecutor Jason Hermus asked whether Guyger, who had completed a 14-hour shift before she confronted 26-year-old Jean in his apartment, intended to kill him, noting that the former officer “[shot him in center mass right where you are trained.”
“I did,” Guyger responded.
Hermus also attempted to center Jean during Guyger’s testimony, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Lead prosecutor Jason Hermus grilled her during cross-examination, focusing on a moment of her testimony when she said being alone with Jean after she shot him was the “scariest thing” she could imagine.
“That’s the scariest thing you can imagine, right?” Hermus asked.
“Yes, sir,” Guyger said.
“Can you imagine Mr. Jean’s perspective? An intruder barging into his apartment,” Hermus said. “And then having been shot and fallen and being alone in that apartment — can’t you imagine that being a little bit scarier than you just being alone at the moment?”
Hermus pressed Guyger during cross-examination, raising alternative courses of action she could have taken, including retreating and radioing for help from a nearby police station. He also suggested that Guyger didn’t do all she could do to save Jean’s life, noting she had “combat gauze” in her backpack that could have been used to temporarily control Jean’s bleeding.
Guyger didn’t use the gauze, saying it didn’t cross her mind to use that or the first-aid kit in her backpack that night. She also testified she didn’t remember seeing much blood.
She told the courtroom she started to do chest compressions on Jean after she shot him, and was next to him when she called 911 but had to step outside into the hallway when asked what apartment number she was in. Prosecutors had earlier pointed to her clean uniform and clean, unused gloves as evidence she didn’t try to provide first aid to Jean.
Hermus also pressed Guyger on inconsistencies in her story, noting that none of her neighbors heard her ostensibly loud commands to Jean to raise his hands.
“I can’t tell you why [they didn’t hear the commands],” Guyger said.
“It’s because you didn’t say it,” Hermus snapped.