Amber Guyger, 31, could face life in prison if convicted of murdering Botham Jean, 26

By Laura Barcella
September 23, 2019 10:39 AM
Mesquite Police Department/ AP; Facebook

Amber Guyger, 31, the white off-duty Dallas police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man inside his own apartment last September, is on trial for murder — and that trial is set to begin today.

Opening statements were expected to begin at 9 a.m., according to the Dallas Morning News, and jurors will be tasked with determining whether Guyger’s killing of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old accountant from St. Lucia, was a crime, and if so, what type.

Guyger’s lawyers could argue Guyger made a “mistake of fact” when she killed Jean, the Dallas Morning News reports — meaning that Guyger believed she was in her own home and needed to defend herself against Jean.

She has pleaded not guilty, with her attorney calling the shooting “a terrible tragedy that resulted from a true mistake,” CNN reports.

Guyger may face life in prison if convicted of murder. (She had initially been charged with manslaughter in the case, but was later indicted on murder charges.)

The trial is expected to last about two weeks, and Guyger will reportedly be free on bond throughout.

She told investigators at the time that she accidentally entered Jean’s  apartment thinking it was her own, and that she believed Jean was an intruder. (She lived on a different floor than the victim.)

Jean worked as an accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers and originally hailed from Saint Lucia. He was a graduate of Arkansas’ Harding University, his family told CNN.

Following her arrest, Guyger, a five-year veteran of the department, was fired, the New York Times reported.

RELATED: Dallas Cop Who Killed Man In His Home Is Indicted for Murder

An arrest affidavit obtained by PEOPLE alleged that on the night of Jean’s death, Guyger parked her car on the fourth floor of her apartment complex’s garage and entered the fourth-floor hallway. Her apartment is on the third floor, directly below Jean’s residence.

Though each apartment required a “unique door key, with an electronic chip” to gain access, Jean’s front door was “slightly ajar” when Guyger arrived and it opened “under the force” of her entering her key, the affidavit claims.

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Inside, the apartment “was nearly completely dark,” Guyger told investigators, adding that when she saw Jean she assumed he was a burglar.

She said she drew her weapon and “gave verbal commands” to Jean that she claimed he ignored, the affidavit states. She then fired her service revolver twice, hitting Jean once in the torso.

RELATED: Botham Jean’s Family Says He Would Never Leave Apartment Door Unlocked

Lee Merritt, an attorney retained by Jean’s family, alleged at a news conference days after the shooting that Guyger’s version of events conflict with what he had learned about the altercation.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Merritt told reporters he had two witnesses — sisters who lived in the complex — who allege they heard Guyger pounding on Jean’s front door in the moments before the gunfire.

“She heard, ‘Let me in,’ followed by ‘Let me in,’ in an elevated tone and then she heard more pounding at the door,” Merritt said. “Then shortly thereafter she heard gunshots.”

Jean’s mother told CNN she wants justice for her middle child, a church-going a cappella singer who was devoted to charity work (fter his death, his family created a  foundation in his name).“My hope for the trial is for my son to get justice … that the person who inflicted harm on him gets punished for the crime that she committed.”