White former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger broke down in court as she began testifying in her own defense on Friday on charges that she murdered her unarmed neighbor in his apartment after she entered by accident.
Guyger, 31, said she wished Botham Jean, a 26-year-old black PwC accountant, had been the one with the gun and he’d killed her, instead of the other way around on September 6, 2018.
She reenacted the moment she arrived at the wrong apartment thinking it was her own before shooting dead Jean as he ate ice cream.
She said she was ‘scared to death’ when she opened what she thought was her apartment door and saw a silhouetted figure standing in the darkness inside.
She testified that as she put her key in the apartment lock, the door opened because it hadn’t been fully closed.
She says she drew her service weapon because she thought someone was in her home. She told the jury she shouted at Jean: ‘Let me see your hands, let me see your hands.’
She explained she couldn’t see his hands and he began coming toward her at a ‘fast-paced’ walk, yelling ‘hey, hey, hey’ in an ‘aggressive voice’.
Gruyer said she was scared Jean was going to kill her before she shot him twice.
When asked how she felt about killing an innocent man, she said through tears: ‘No police officer ever would want to hurt an innocent person.
‘I feel like a terrible person. I feel like a piece of crap. I hate that I have to live with this every single day of my life.
‘I feel like I don’t deserve the chance to be with my family and friends.
‘I wish he was the one with the gun and had killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life.
‘I am so sorry. This is not about hate, it’s about being scared that night.’
While being cross-examined, she admitted that on September 8 – just two days after the shooting – she sent flirtatious, sexually-orientated messages to her police partner Martin Rivera, with whom she had a romantic relationship the previous year, and talked about getting drunk. The court heard Rivera is married and has children.
They had a yearlong relationship, which she ended because it was ‘morally wrong’, but continued to flirt.
Guyger was coming off a 13-1/2 hour shift when she walked into the central Dallas apartment of Jean. She says she thought he was a burglar in her apartment one floor lower.
It is relatively rare for criminal defendants to testify in their own defense at trial since it subjects them to cross-examination by prosecutors who will attempt to poke holes in their story.
One of Guyger’s lawyers opened by asking about her childhood in the Dallas suburb of Arlington. Guyger said she grew up in a small house, that she played in the school band and that she aspired to become a police officer.
‘I just wanted to help people and that was the one career that I thought I could help people in,’ said Guyger, who was fired from the police force after she shot Jean in the chest.
Guyger told the jury that police work was ‘the one thing I wanted to do since I was little.’
Guyger’s testimony marks the first time the public has heard directly from her since Jean’s killing.
She recounted police training that focused on learning to control suspects and the importance of seeing their hands, which kicked in as she spotted Jean.
The shooting, one of a series of high-profile killings of unarmed black men and teens by white U.S. police, sparked street protests, particularly after prosecutors initially moved to charge Guyger with manslaughter, a charge for killing without malice that carries a lesser sentence than murder.
In contrast to cases like the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Philando Castile in Minnesota, Guyger shot Jean – a native of the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia – while she was off duty, rather than while responding to a reported crime.
During the trial, Guyger’s defense attorney, Robert Rogers, said she was ‘on autopilot’ after a long workday on September 6, 2018 when she mistakenly parked on the wrong floor in the building’s garage and was able to enter Jean’s apartment because the door was slightly ajar.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus told the jury of four men and 12 women that Guyger missed blatant clues that she was not in her own apartment – including the smell of marijuana smoke – because she was distracted after a 16-minute phone conversation she had on her commute home with Rivera.
Prosecutors have revealed that the two had exchanged sexually explicit messages and images earlier that day.
Rivera said during his testimony on Monday he would send provocative photos of himself to Guyger. Prosecutors said she had also sent a message saying she was ‘super horny today’ hours before the shooting.
Guyger also sent Rivera a Snapchat message saying ‘Wanna touch?’, prosecutors said.
She also allegedly sent two text messages to her partner while she was simultaneously on the phone to 911 as Jean was bleeding to death on his floor.
Prosecutors said that after Guyger shot Jean, she deleted the logs of her text exchanges with Rivera from her cellphone.
Rivera said he didn’t know why she had done that but admitted that he had also deleted their text exchanges.
Guyger said on Friday she deleted the texts between her and her partner because she was ashamed to be in a relationship with him. She added that she had deleted texts between them before.
Guyger’s attorneys say she fired in self-defense after mistaking Jean for a burglar. She also had a Taser and pepper spray on her utility belt.
Her attorneys also say the identical physical appearance of the complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants parking on the wrong floor or trying to enter the wrong apartment.
On Friday, former resident Mark Lipscomb said he had parked on the wrong floor numerous times and tried to get into the wrong apartment.
One occasion he actually walked into the apartment directly below his.
Prosecutors Guyger on Friday why she didn’t back away and use her police radio to call for help when she thought someone was in her apartment.
She testified that entering the home ‘was the only option that went through my head.’
Guyger says she intended to kill Jean when she fired, believing he was a threat.
Earlier in the week, prosecutors raised the question of why Guyger did not try to revive Jean after she knew she had shot an innocent man – underscoring to jurors that there are photos showing Guyger outside using her phone at the very moment responding officers worked to save Jean.
In a frantic 911 call played in court earlier this week, Guyger says ‘I thought it was my apartment’ nearly 20 times.
The trial began Monday.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Jenny Stanton