The murder trial of Amber Guyger, a Dallas police officer who shot Botham Jean — a 26-year-old black accountant — in his own apartment, began this past Monday. While this case involves a police officer, it clearly has some good lessons for all of us who carry guns.
For those unfamiliar with the case, what basically happened was that on Sept. 6, 2018, Officer Amber Guyger was off-duty but still in uniform when she parked her car at the South Side Flats and walked to what she believed was her apartment.
Guyger said she did not realize she was on the wrong floor. According to initial reports (CNN and local Gwinett Daily Post), she was groggy and exhausted, having just completed a 15-hour shift, when she parked a level above where she normally would have.
Murphy’s Law Rears Its Ugly Head
Guyger came to what she thought was her apartment and was about to use her electronic card key when she noticed that the door was ajar. Had the door been closed, she would have tried her key, which wouldn’t have worked, and likely would have realized that she was at the wrong unit.
But, tragically, she assumed that someone must have broken into her apartment, so she pushed through the open door and entered. The inside of the apartment was almost completely dark. Here again, had the lights been on, she probably would have noticed the wrong furniture and thus had second thoughts.
Instead, Guyger described seeing “a large silhouette” and “believed there was an intruder.” She drew her gun and “gave verbal commands,” the arrest affidavit said. However, Jean, being in his own home, was apparently confused and did not reply.
Guyger fired two shots, hitting Jean once in the torso. Guyger then called 911 and rendered aid to Jean, again according to the affidavit.
While talking to the 911 dispatcher, who asked for her address, Guyger turned on the lights and realized she was in the wrong apartment, she told the police. “I thought it was my apartment,” Guyger repeated 19 times to the dispatcher.
Accident or Intentional?
Initially, then-Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson presented a manslaughter case to a grand jury. But the grand jury indicted Guyger on a murder charge, which Johnson said indicated they felt her actions were “knowing” or intentional.
The shooting sparked protests in Dallas and calls for the white officer to be charged. Civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, one of the Jean family attorneys, said the shooting was another example of the threat of violence black people live with. (CNN)
Guyger’s attorney, Robert Rogers, has called the shooting “a terrible tragedy that resulted from a true mistake.” (CNN)
What We Can Learn
Regardless of the eventual outcome, this case shows why if anything looks a bit off or not quite right, you should never enter your dwelling to check it out. Call 911! Even my cop friends say they would do the same; they know how dangerous clearing a house can be.
This case also points out how being exhausted, preoccupied and/or stressed can lead to terrible consequences. Maintaining situational awareness, including of your physical surroundings, is even more important when under duress.
Finally, being as sure as possible before you shoot is critical, whether in a dark parking garage or your own home.
Be smart. Be safe.
About John Caile
NRA Certified Instructor John Caile has more than 35 years of experience in the firearms industry, including training others in concealed carry and practical handgun shooting skills. As the communications director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, he was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is a contributing writer for Concealed Carry Magazine. He continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida.