Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder Tuesday in last year’s fatal shooting of her upstairs neighbor in his apartment.
Guyger, who was fired after the shooting, said that she mistook Botham Jean’s apartment for her own after parking on the wrong floor at the complex on Sept. 6, 2018.
The guilty verdict comes after only a few hours of deliberations and six days of testimony.
A spectator yelled “Thank you, Jesus!” as cheers were heard in the courtroom when the verdict was announced. Guyger cried as she heard her fate.
“This is a huge victory, not only for the family of Botham Jean, but this is a victory for black people in America,” Jean family lawyer Lee Merritt said. “It’s a signal that the tide is going to change here. Police officers are going to be held accountable for their actions, and we believe that will begin to change policing culture around the world.”
The sentencing phase begins in the Dallas courtroom later Tuesday, with Guyger facing five to 99 years in prison on the murder charge.
“We believe that Botham’s life mattered and we want to see a sentence that reflects that,” Merritt said.
He also thanked Dallas County in a Twitter post “for delivering the proper murder conviction of Amber Guyger. Botham did not deserve to die. His family deserved justice.”
Jean’s death was just one in a series of fatal shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers in recent years.
“A 26-year-old college-educated black man, certified public accountant, working for one of the big three accounting firms in the world … it shouldn’t take all of that for unarmed black and brown people in America to get justice,” family lawyer Benjamin Crump told reporters.
Guyger testified during the trial that she was afraid that someone had broken into the apartment and feared for her life when she saw someone walk toward her in the dark.
She said “I thought it was my apartment” nearly 20 times in a 911 call after the shooting.
A prosecutor called her claims “absurd” during closing arguments, while a defense lawyer admitted that she made a “series of horrible mistakes.”
“It’s not a mistake. It’s a series of unreasonable decisions,” Assistant District Attorney Jason Fine told the jury.
Fine argued that Guyger missed major clues that would have told her it was not her apartment, including his red doormat and the apartment sign.