The former Dallas police officer who said she shot and killed an unarmed neighbor after mistaking his apartment for her own broke down multiple times Friday while on the stand for her murder trial.
“I was scared he was going to come at me and kill me,” Amber Guyger, a four-year veteran of the Dallas police force, told the court.
Botham Jean, 26, was in his own apartment on the fourth floor of the building last year when Guyger somehow entered thinking it was her own apartment on the third floor. Guyger, who broke down twice during her testimony, said she shot Jean — a black man from the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia — because she believed he was a “threat” in her own apartment.
Through tears, Guyger, who is white, described how she felt about killing an innocent man.
“I feel like a terrible person,” she said. “I feel like a piece of crap. I hate that I have to live with this, and ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself every single day.”
“I wish he was the one with the gun who had killed me,” she said, referring to Jean. “I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life.”
During her testimony, Guyger’s attorney recreated the sequence of events that led to the officer killing Jean, who worked as an accountant in Dallas.
Guyger, who was off duty but in uniform at the time of the shooting, testified that she was driving home to the South Side Flats complex where she lived after finishing a 13-hour shift. She was on the phone with her patrol partner, Martin Rivera, whom she admitted to having an affair with. Guyger said that she had ended the physical relationship with Rivera, who was married with kids, but that they continued to sext and flirt as they also did in the hours leading up to the shooting.
Guyger testified that she parked her car in what she thought was the third floor of the apartment complex. She said that she was carrying her backpack, lunch box, and police vest when she then walked to what she said she believed was her apartment.
At the same time, Jean had returned home to his fourth-floor apartment and was sitting on his couch, eating ice cream and watching TV, according to evidence presented during the trial. But his defective door had not fully closed behind him.
Guyger said that when she put the key in the lock, she realized the door was “cracked open” and she could hear someone “shuffling” and “moving around” inside the apartment.
“I was scared to death,” Guyger testified. “Your heart rate just skyrockets.”
Guyger said she “just wanted to find the threat” inside what she thought was her apartment.
She said that when she saw a “silhouette figure” standing somewhere inside the apartment, she propped open the door and pulled out her service weapon.
She then shouted, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!”
It was then that she saw the figure “advance” toward her in a “fast-paced walk,” Guyger testified.
“I thought he was going to kill me because I couldn’t see his hands,” she said.
Guyger added that she also heard Jean yell, “‘Hey, hey, hey’ in an aggressive voice,” as he walked toward her.
That’s when she shot him twice, she said.
When asked by prosecutors if she “intended to kill” Jean when she pulled the trigger, Guyger said, “I did.”
Prosecutors have argued that Jean was still sitting on his couch when Guyger shot him, while her defense lawyers say he was walking or lunging toward her.
Guyger said that after she shot Jean, she walked inside the apartment with her gun raised. It was then that she saw an ottoman in the middle of the floor and realized she was in the wrong apartment, she said.
“As I was getting closer, it started hitting me,” Guyger told the court. “This guy…I have no idea who he is. And that’s when everything started to spin. I was confused.”
Guyger testified that she used her left hand to start CPR on Jean and used her right hand to call 911.
Guyger, who had been trained in CPR but never performed it before, said she tried to do a “little CPR” on Jean but stopped because she had to go out to check the apartment number to tell the 911 dispatcher where she was.
Prosecutors said that instead of doing CPR to try to save Jean’s life, Guyger used her hands to text Rivera twice during the 911 call, telling him, “I need you...hurry” and “I fucked up.”
During the 911 call, Guyger repeated “I thought it was my apartment” around 19 times.
“I didn’t mean to, I didn’t mean to,” she said on the call and could be heard telling Jean, “Hey bud. It’s OK, bud.”
Guyger said that being alone in the apartment with Jean after shooting him was “the scariest thing” that had ever happened to her.
Prosecutors questioned Guyger on why she didn’t use gauze and tools from the first aid kit inside her backpack that was lying inches away from Jean in an attempt to stop his bleeding.
“It didn’t cross my mind,” Guyger said.
Prosecutors also asked Guyger why she didn’t follow police training protocols to “take cover and conceal” and to radio for help when coming across a burglar instead of choosing to confront him alone.
Guyger said she decided to go in because “that was the only option in my head,” adding that she wasn’t thinking like a police officer responding to a call when she heard someone inside the apartment.
“I was responding to my own home,” she said. “I was going home, it wasn’t a call.”
Prosecutors have also argued that Guyger should have been able to notice the differences in floor plans and furniture arrangements between her apartment and Jean’s unit, which had a bright red doormat outside, the only such doormat on the third and fourth floors.
Prosecutors also doubted Guyger’s claims that she shouted at Jean to show his hands, noting that witnesses across the hall during the shooting did not hear her commands.
Guyger’s defense team have said that the hallways looked the same and that it was reasonable for Guyger to believe she was entering her own apartment, which was directly below Jean’s. On Friday, her defense team brought in two other South Side Flats tenants to testify that they had also mistakenly parked on the wrong floor and entered the wrong apartment a few times.
Prosecutors also brought up Guyger’s affair with Rivera to cast aspersion on Guyger’s “morality,” noting that she sent inappropriate texts to Rivera two days after she killed Jean.
While Guyger testified that she was “tired” after her 13-hour shift, prosecutors noted that text messages she exchanged with Rivera before the shooting suggest that they had plans to meet later that night. Guyger denied that in court, saying she had planned to work out at a gym in downtown Dallas later that evening.
“No police officer would ever want to hurt an innocent person,” Guyger told the court in tears.
Guyger, who was fired from the Dallas Police Department in the weeks after the shooting, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if she is convicted.