UNITED STATES-Former police officer guilty of murdering St. Lucian national

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CANA is reporting that a white former police officer was on Tuesday found guilty of murdering her unarmed black neighbour, after she claimed to have mistakenly entered his apartment in September last year, firing two bullets into his body.

Loud cheers broke out in the Court after Judge Tammy Kemp read out the 12-member jury’s verdict that found 31-year-old Amber Guyger, a four-year veteran with Dallas Police Force, guilty of shooting to death 28-year-old Botham Jean, a St. Lucian-born accountant in his apartment.

Botham Jean’s parents, Bertram and Allison Jean react to the guilty verdict against former police officer

The prosecution had accused her of bursting into Jean’s apartment “commando-style” and firing at him while he was eating a bowl of ice cream on his sofa on the night of September 6, 2018.

“Botham Jean was never a threat to Amber Guyger — never,” Jason Hermus, a prosecutor for Dallas County, told jurors during closing arguments on Monday. “Justice needs to happen in this courtroom today.”

Guyger, who broke down in tears in her testimony during the seven day trial, had told investigators that after a near 14 hour shift she parked on the fourth floor of her apartment complex’s garage – rather than the third floor where she lived – and found the apartment’s door unlocked, resulting in her making “a series of horrible mistakes”.

But the jury reached the unanimous verdict in the high-profile trial after a few hours of deliberation.

Guyger faces the possibility of a prison sentence of between five and 99 years. Jurors were also allowed to consider a manslaughter charge, which can carry between two and 20 years behind bars.

The prosecution had argued that Guyger should have noticed she was on the wrong floor and that she missed numerous signs before entering the apartment.

They suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages with her police partner and also questioned why Guyger didn’t radio in for help when she thought there was a break-in at her home instead of entering the apartment with her gun drawn.

The Court heard that Guyger, who was still in uniform at the time of the shooting, had a number of non-lethal items attached to her service belt at the time of the shooting, including a stun gun and pepper spray.

But her defense attorneys, however, said she fired in self-defense based on the belief that Jean was a burglar. They argued in their closing statements on Monday that her belief she was killing an intruder in her home was entirely reasonable and the shooting was a result of ‘a series of horrible mistakes’.

The attorneys also said that shooting Jean was a ‘split-second decision’ made by Guyger.

Toby Shook, the attorney for Guyger, asked the jury to consider that she had made a mistake, one that was common in an apartment complex where many residents interviewed by investigators said they had parked on the wrong floor by accident.

“A wonderful human being has lost his life. But the evidence shows it is just a tragedy — a horrible, horrible tragedy,” he said.

Jean came to the United States to attend college and later started his career as an accountant. His murder 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.

Guyger was arrested three days after the killing and then fired from the Dallas Police Department. She was initially charged with manslaughter before a grand jury indicted her for murder.

In a hallway outside the courtroom, a crowd celebrated and said “black lives matter” in raised voices. When the prosecutors walked into the hall, they broke into cheers.

Civil rights lawyer, Lee Merit, speaking after the verdict was read out, said “this is a victory for black people in America.

“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 all over the world. This should have been automatic. This should have been anticipated, expected”, he said  describing cases of police officers being punished for shooting unarmed black men such as Jean, as “rare”.

The shooting had sparked protests as community members feared that Guyger would not be held accountable.

Former Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings had described Jean as “a model citizen”.

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