STREAMING NOW: Watch Now
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Slain man’s brother and judge hug cop sentenced to 10 years

A white Dallas police officer who said she mistook a neighbor’s apartment for her own and fatally shot him in his living room was sentenced Wednesday to a decade in prison in a stunning courtroom scene that included the dead man’s brother and the black judge embracing the sobbing officer.

Posted: Oct 2, 2019 10:40 PM

DALLAS (AP) — A white Dallas police officer who said she mistook a neighbor’s apartment for her own and fatally shot him in his living room was sentenced Wednesday to a decade in prison in a stunning courtroom scene that included the dead man’s brother and the black judge embracing the sobbing officer.

People outside of the courtroom reacted angrily to the sentence given to Amber Guyger in the death of Botham Jean, believing it was too lenient. But Jean’s brother addressed her directly from the witness stand.

Full Coverage: Mistaken Apartment Shooting
Brandt Jean told Guyger that his brother would have wanted her to turn her life over to Christ, and that if she asks God for forgiveness, she will get it.

“I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you,” he said to the 31-year-old Guyger, before asking the judge, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?”

The judge said he could, and Brandt and Guyger stood up, met in front of the bench and embraced while Guyger cried. Judge Tammy Kemp also hugged Guyger before she was led from the courtroom.

The shooting in September 2018 drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

Full Coverage: Mistaken Apartment Shooting
Jurors could have sentenced the former officer to up to life in prison or as little as two years, but prosecutors asked them to send her to prison for 28 years, which is how old Botham Jean would have been if he were still alive.

Youtube video thumbnail
She will be eligible for parole in five years, after serving half of her sentence.

As video of the dramatic hearing circulated online, critics blasted the judge, saying her hug was inappropriate for the jurist overseeing the case. Meanwhile at a Dallas church where the Jean family gathered to worship and Botham Jean had led the congregation singing, video of Brandt Jean embracing Guyger in court drew applause and “amens” when showed Wednesday night.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a former trial judge, called Brandt Jean’s embrace of Guyger “an amazing act of healing and forgiveness that is rare in today’s society ... especially for many of our leaders.”

If Jean’s 18-year-old brother “can heal and express healing in that fashion, in his words and in his deeds, I would hope that the greater community, not just Dallas but all of Texas and all of the United States, could gain a message from that,” he told reporters.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a statement saying he would “never, ever forget the incredible examples of love, faith and strength personified by Botham, Brandt and the entire Jean family.”

Guyger’s attorney asked jurors to show mercy, pointing to the good she did for people, including some who spoke at the hearing.

Among them was officer Cathy Odhiambo, who described Guyger as a longtime friend who dreamed of being a police officer when they waited tables at a TGI Fridays. She said the two of them went through the academy and them came through the police ranks together.

“Everybody that knows her knows that Amber is the sweetest person,” Odhiambo said.

Odhiambo, who is black, was not asked about text messages that prosecutors said indicated a lack of sensitivity by Guyger toward black people. However, another fellow officer, Thomas MacPherson, said some of those texts sounded “out of character” for Guyger, whom he described as “someone you could depend on.”

When a sniper opened fire on police during a rally in downtown Dallas three years ago, killing five of them, Guyger was “so brave,” MacPherson said. He said the two of them ran toward the gunfire and helped panicked citizens along the way.

LaWanda Clark, who is black, said she met Guyger when the former officer busted a drug house, and that it helped change her life. She was struggling with a crack cocaine addiction. Guyger, while ticketing her, told her it could be the catalyst for turning around her life. She said Guyger treated her as a person, not an addict, and that she’s now sober.

As Clark spoke, Guyger’s lawyers showed jurors a photo of Guyger attending Clark’s graduation from a community drug treatment program.

Jean’s father told jurors about how his son’s death upended his life back in St. Lucia.

Bertrum Jean said that after his son left their Caribbean island for college in Arkansas, he would call home every Sunday after church to catch up with the tightly knit family. Now, he said, his Sundays “have been destroyed.”

“How could we have lost Botham? Such a sweet boy. He tried his best to live a good honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone. How could this happen to him?” the father said, breaking into tears.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, criticized the investigation into her son’s death and the police training to shoot to kill.

If Guyger “was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be alive today. He was no threat to her. He had no reason to be a threat to her, because he was in his own apartment,” Allison Jean said.

The basic facts of the shooting were not in dispute. Guyger, returning from a long shift that night, parked on the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was directly below his. Finding the door ajar, she entered and shot him, thinking he was a burglar. He had been eating a bowl of ice cream before she fired.

In the frantic 911 call played repeatedly during the trial, Guyger said “I thought it was my apartment” nearly 20 times. Her lawyers argued that the identical physical appearance of the apartment complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants going to the wrong apartments.

But prosecutors questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place. They also asked why she did not call for backup and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages she had been exchanging with her police partner, who was also her lover.

The jury was largely made up of women and people of color.

___

Associated Press video journalist John Mone and writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas, and writer Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed this this report.

___

Follow Jake Bleiberg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jzbleiberg

Terre Haute
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 30°
Robinson
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 28°
Indianapolis/Eagle Creek
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 30°
Paris
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 26°
Mattoon/Charleston
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 27°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 30°
Terre Haute
Cloudy
36° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 30°
Foggy with Light Rain
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Tuesday: Foggy, light drizzle. High: 40

Image

ISU SIU MBB

Image

Big Changes for Deming and West Vigo Elementary coming

Image

TYLER GRAUER ALL AMERICAN

Image

ISU EVANSVILLE VOLLEYBALL

Image

American Red Cross is in need of blood donations

Image

Funds available to help boost students morale

Image

Illinois Launches COVID-19 Vaccination Website

Image

Students are stepping up to help fill the shortage of medical professionals in Indiana

Image

Illinois police chief resigns after arrest

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1104763

Reported Deaths: 20744
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4460359268
DuPage710701173
Will59914891
Lake54851924
Kane47289710
Winnebago26813416
Madison25429480
St. Clair23107451
McHenry22290260
Champaign15937106
Peoria15535252
Sangamon14956245
McLean13590173
Tazewell12346253
Rock Island12229308
Kankakee11733187
Kendall1003981
LaSalle9807250
Macon9005182
Vermilion7806117
DeKalb769995
Adams7564129
Williamson6373119
Boone566580
Whiteside5441175
Clinton518886
Coles480486
Ogle471973
Knox4712147
Grundy454154
Effingham436571
Jackson431670
Henry412078
Marion4093113
Macoupin402997
Franklin394671
Livingston381170
Randolph380274
Monroe369571
Stephenson364677
Jefferson3570105
Woodford335470
Morgan332393
Logan317959
Montgomery316654
Lee314576
Christian306279
Bureau305985
Fayette296853
Perry279662
Iroquois263058
Fulton262650
Jersey230961
Lawrence220730
McDonough220051
Saline209254
Douglas205734
Union204032
Shelby202435
Crawford183635
Cass179531
Bond178524
Pike160648
Warren160444
Richland157546
Hancock155635
Wayne154843
Clark153234
Jo Daviess152725
Washington149826
Edgar149452
Carroll147633
Moultrie141828
White141333
Ford140851
Clay134040
Greene128443
Johnson125715
Wabash121915
Mason119841
Piatt119718
De Witt119228
Mercer119130
Cumberland111827
Massac107133
Jasper106115
Menard92310
Hamilton73217
Marshall70915
Schuyler65017
Brown62611
Pulaski6253
Stark50120
Edwards4789
Henderson46816
Calhoun4504
Scott4081
Alexander4067
Gallatin3974
Putnam3592
Hardin3128
Pope2583
Unassigned1110
Out of IL340

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 613228

Reported Deaths: 9728
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion846851338
Lake45676687
Allen32980552
Hamilton29649315
St. Joseph27531382
Elkhart24478345
Vanderburgh19610250
Tippecanoe18108141
Johnson15191295
Porter14944169
Hendricks14485250
Madison11044222
Clark10811144
Vigo10795181
Monroe9458113
Delaware9170134
LaPorte9145164
Howard8292144
Kosciusko810183
Warrick680299
Hancock6782104
Bartholomew6640100
Floyd6507110
Wayne6177162
Grant6027116
Dubois558680
Boone556468
Morgan548695
Henry511464
Marshall506984
Cass486964
Dearborn486545
Noble475659
Jackson427747
Shelby420781
Lawrence393780
Clinton375044
Gibson374459
Harrison353045
DeKalb349864
Montgomery347654
Knox336239
Miami324544
Steuben315046
Whitley311126
Wabash305851
Adams302836
Ripley300546
Putnam298950
Huntington294860
Jasper291734
White275143
Daviess271774
Jefferson266238
Decatur249583
Fayette248648
Greene242262
Posey241028
Wells236951
LaGrange230062
Scott226839
Clay224332
Randolph215248
Jennings200636
Sullivan193533
Spencer193022
Washington188023
Fountain184927
Starke176444
Jay168623
Owen167637
Fulton164830
Orange160935
Carroll159715
Rush156318
Perry155929
Vermillion149734
Franklin149333
Tipton133133
Parke13088
Pike118526
Blackford111822
Pulaski97837
Newton92021
Brown88335
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin74913
Warren6857
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4977
Unassigned0376