Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger has been found guilty of murder October 1st after fatally shooting Botham Jean, an unarmed black man in his own apartment on September 6th. Guyger received a sentence of 10 years in prison.
Reportedly, as a result of parking on the fourth floor of her complex’s parking garage, Guyger confused her rooms and arrived at the room directly beneath her where Botham sat in his living room, eating ice cream in front of the television. Guyger pushed the broken door, of which Botham complained repeatedly of, open and mistaking Botham for an intruder, immediately drew her weapon, told him to raise his hands, and promptly shot him two times in the chest.
Guyger’s crime revitalized the conversation of police brutality and the targeting of people of color in such situations.
Her defense maintains that have working a nearly fourteen-hour shift, Guyger wasn’t paying any attention to the environment around her. Things such as the floor level, room numbers, and the red door matt that wasn’t hers in front of Botham’s apartment – apparently the man’s favorite color according to his family – went unnoticed.
Guyger also was reported to be engaging in an explicit conversation with her married partner at work, Officer Martin Rivera, at work too at the time, apparently distracting her even further.
As a result of the guilty conviction of Guyger, many activists hailed this as a change in the right direction for civil rights and opposition to police brutality. Mixed opinions arose as a result of the short sentence.
Guyger nonetheless, while stating her guilt and remorse, still remains steadfast that she was “scared he was going to kill me,” and did in fact shoot to kill.
Yet while some claim the lack of any direct connection to racism in the sentencing, no one can state one way or another whether if Botham was white if the murder would’ve happened at all.
While the case itself is different from other situations of police brutality on marginalized groups, It does reveal the dangerous, violent tendencies ingrained in law enforcement, and how those tendencies typically become pointed towards those of marginalized groups. Guyger did not attempt to communicate with Botham nor did she follow police protocol where she should have called for backup.
Any other civilian would’ve been forced to analyze the situation and/or call for help.
From Botham’s point of few, who allegedly got up from his seat and approached Guyger, saying “hey, hey hey!”, he was just as terrified as Guyger supposedly was at the time – if not more so. A stranger just invaded his apartment and now aimed a weapon directly at him. From Guyger’s view, the man sat on the couch watching T.V. with a tub of vanilla ice cream.
Guyger too, deleted incriminating texts immediately after the murder. An example can be seen with her texts during an MLK day parade:
Another officer identified as ‘Blevins’ texted Guyger asking when the parade would end, in which Guyger responded with, “When MLK is dead. Oh wait…”
She also proposed that Blevins could “spray pepper spray in his general area.”
Other examples can be seen in her interactions with friends and family, such as one involving a person who recently adopted a German Shepard and claimed the dog may be racist:
“Don’t worry,” replied Guyger. “I’m the same.”
However, even with these texts shown and the prosecution elaborating upon her character, the jury was hesitant to give the encouraged twenty-eight-year sentence – the age Botham would’ve turned this year.
Botham’s neighbor too, who acted as a key witness during the trial, was shot to death in Dallas. Theories range from a freak incident to a calculated attack against a man who spoke up during a time when few would. No suspect description has been released, only that potential attacker drove a silver four-door sedan.
Botham’s brother and the judge both gave Guyger a hug towards the end of the trial, wishing her peace and forgiveness among her time in prison. Allison Jean, Botham’s mother, on the other hand, stated her son’s life was “more valuable than 10 years,” which may not be the entire sentence Guyger serves in prison – becoming eligible for parole in five years.
“I think it sends a message to America how people are treated, how victims are treated.” Jean said.
The murder of Botham Jean certainly does send a message – though of which kind, is difficult to say. America has always scrambled to defend its law enforcement and its dubious actions against people of color, and the question of whether if Botham was a white man would the murder had ever even occurred is one that will never truly be answered. After all, given Botham’s position comfortably sitting on the sofa, it’s difficult to figure why Guyger immediately saw him as dangerous and didn’t attempt to reassess the situation.
It’s simply a shame to say that if Guyger did see him as a threat because of his race, it wouldn’t surprise anyone – because this isn’t the first-time people of color have been targeted and unfairly punished for the mere act of existing. And unfortunately, unless America is willing to recognize the problem and change, it might not be the last.