CBS/AP September 10, 2018, 1:42 PM Grand jury could weigh more serious charges against officer who killed neighbor
DALLAS — The case against a white Dallas police officer who shot and killed a black neighbor in his home will be presented to a grand jury, which could decide on more serious charges than manslaughter, the district attorney overseeing the case said Monday. Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said her office will first collect all of the evidence surrounding Thursday's fatal shooting by Dallas officer Amber Guyger, who told authorities that she had mistaken the neighbor's apartment for her own.
Guyger was arrested Sunday night and booked into jail in neighboring Kaufman County before being released on bond. Mayor Mike Rawlings said the officer parked on the wrong floor of the complex's garage after getting home from work Thursday night. That was shortly before she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean.
Johnson said her office expects to present a "full case" to the grand jury, but didn't give a timeline. She said the panel will be able to weigh "all aspects" of the case including possible charges of manslaughter or murder.
She said the Texas Rangers, who are also investigating the case, made the decision to issue the warrant for manslaughter.
Johnson said she had "spirited debate" with the Rangers during a two-hour meeting on Sunday in which her office gave their opinions and insight, but wouldn't specify what the agencies discussed. She said the final charging decision will land with the grand jury.
Johnson said she had met with Jean's family, who stood by at the press conference. She vowed to ensure "justice is done."
"We're going to unravel what we need to unravel, unturn what we need to unturn, and present a full case to the grand jury of Dallas County," Johnson said.
When asked why Guyger was allowed to surrender somewhere other than Dallas County's jail and why the arrest happened several days after Jean's death, Johnson said those decisions were made by the Texas Rangers.
The Dallas County medical examiner's office said on Monday that Jean died of a gunshot wound to the chest. His death was ruled a homicide.
Lawyers for Jean's family had called for Guyger's arrest, saying the fact that she remained free for days after the shooting showed she was receiving favorable treatment. Shortly before her arrest was announced, they held a news conference in which they said their legal team had presented prosecutors with new evidence – a witness and video footage. They did not provide details.
"There is no way she should have left the scene of this incident — even under her narrative – without being in handcuffs that day," said family attorney Lee Merritt said at a Monday press conference.
On the day after the shooting, Police Chief U. Renee Hall said her department was seeking manslaughter charges against Guyger, a four-year veteran of the police force. But Hall said Saturday that the Texas Rangers asked her department to hold off because they had learned new information and wanted to investigate further before a warrant was issued.
Meanwhile, Jean's family hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who is best known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Monday, Crump called the circumstances of Jean's fatal shooting inside his own apartment "shocking."
According to police, Guyger shot and killed Jean after returning in uniform to the South Side Flats complex, where they both had apartments, following her shift.
Guyger's blood was drawn at the scene to be tested for alcohol and drugs, Hall said, but authorities have not released results.
Jean's mother, Allison Jean, wondered whether race could have been a factor. Her son grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia before attending college in Arkansas.
"If it was a white man, would it have been different? Would she have reacted differently?" Allison Jean said Friday.
Speaking at a press conference Monday, Jean and family lawyers called for more transparency. Jean said after meeting with the district attorney, she still didn't have an answer to the question that weighed most heavily on her mind: "What happened?"
Merritt said the district attorney didn't have answers to the family's "pretty common sense questions."
Jean wasn't the first person shot by Guyger. She shot a man named Uvaldo Perez on May 12, 2017, while on duty.
According to an affidavit filed against Perez, police were looking for a suspect when Guyger and another officer were called to assist a third officer. Perez got out of a car and became combative with Guyger and another officer. A struggle began and Guyger fired her Taser at Perez, who then wrested it away from her. She then drew her gun and fired, wounding Perez in the abdomen.
Sgt. Mike Mata, president of Dallas' largest police union, the Dallas Police Association, called Saturday for an "open, transparent and full investigation of the event," the Dallas Morning News reported.
He described Jean as an "amazing individual" and said that "if the grand jury deems necessary, this officer should have to answer for her actions in a court of law in Dallas County."
Friends and family gathered Saturday at the Dallas West Church of Christ to remember Jean, who had worked for accounting firm PwC since graduating in 2016 from Harding University, where he often led campus religious services as a student.