DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The former Dallas police officer accused of shooting and killing her neighbor, Botham Jean, in his own apartment last year is testifying today.
It was just before 9:00 a.m. when Amber Guyger took the stand to speak in her own defense.
The 31-year-old began by testifying about her family and upbringing in Arlington. She said she was about 6-years-old when she decided she wanted to be a police officer.
When asked why she chose that profession she said, “I just wanted to help people and that was the one career I thought I could help people in.”
She continued testifying about applying to the Dallas Police Academy and going through training. During that time she said she was taught that when confronting suspects to shout the order “let me see your hands, let me see your hands”.
Guyger testified about being accepted on the Crime Reduction Team (CRT) in January of 2017 and meeting Senior Cpl. Martin Rivera, the man she would later have a sexual relationship with.
Rivera was the man she was sexting and calling in the minutes before shooting 26-year-old Jean.
She said she didn’t want anyone to know about the relationship because, “I was embarrassed because he was married.”
Guyger testified that during their nearly yearlong relationship she and Rivera often sexted and sent sexually explicit photographs to each other. While she testified that she ended the relationship because, “I knew it was morally wrong. I didn’t want to hurt anybody and I knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere,” she admitted that their sexual flirtations continued.
The former officer moved from Uptown to the Southside Flats apartments in July 2018. She said at the time her Dallas police schedule was Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., but that it wasn’t unusual to work overtime.
She talked about receiving several texts from Rivera the night of the shooting and receiving a sexually suggestive photograph from him before leaving the police substation. She said he actually called her as she drove home.
Guyger said she believed she went to the 3rd floor of the Southside Flats parking garage to park her truck and she continued speaking on the phone with Rivera for “a few minutes” after parking.
She said at the time, “I kept thinking I got so lucky to park somewhere close where I didn’t have to carry all my equipment around or far.”
Said she got out of the truck, carrying her police equipment, entered the building and proceeded down a hallway that wasn’t marked. She said, “I was just ready to go home.”
Guyger began to cry just as her attorney began questioning her about getting to what she said she thought was her apartment door.
Attorney Toby Shook had just asked Guyger to step down from the stand to demonstrate how she carried her police equipment to the door when another one of her attorneys to ask the judge if they could break so she could gather herself. Sobbing, Guyger said, “No keep going. I want to tell my side.”
Despite her urging Judge Tammy Kemp retired the jury and announced that the court would take a 10 minute break.
After being in recess for nearly half an hour court resumed and Guyger began to reenact what she had in her hands and how she entered what we now know was Jean’s apartment. She said as she started to insert her key into the lock she saw that the door was “cracked open” and that she heard movement inside.
This time she said when she put the key fob into the lock, the force pushed the cracked door open. She said she was “scared to death” because she thought someone was inside her apartment. She said as the door opened she “wanted to find the threat.”
Once the door fully opened she said, “That’s whenever, directly in the middle towards the window, is when I saw this silhouette figure standing back there.”
When she saw the silhouette she said, “That’s whenever I pulled my gun out and I yelled at him ‘Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!’” She said she was concerned because the figure was still moving around and she couldn’t see his hands.
Guyger said once she yelled the command the figure “started coming towards me”. When asked what was going through her mind when she saw Jean moving toward her she said, “I thought that he was coming at me and since I couldn’t see his hands he was gonna kill me.”
It was then that she said Jean began “yelling ‘hey, hey, hey’ in an aggressive voice.” She said as Jean moved towards her “And that’s at that point whenever I shot.”
After she fired the shots she said, “I walked fully inside the apartment. I still had my gun outside, since I didn’t even… at that point I didn’t know if it wasn’t [sic] if he was armed. It wasn’t ‘till that point when I got to the counter area when everything started realizing that I wasn’t even… this wasn’t my apartment.”
She testified that she hadn’t noticed her surroundings before because until then she had her full attention “On the threat. On the person that I thought was inside my apartment.”
“It started hitting me that this guy I have no idea who he is and that’s when everything just, it started to spin. I was confused and that‘s when I dialed 911.”
Guyger said she started doing chest compressions with her left hand but that she didn’t perform the lifesaving effort very long because the dispatcher asked her where she was and since she didn’t know she had to leave the apartment to find out.
Said she after returning to Jean’s side she performed a sternum rub to try and revive him. “I wanted him to keep breathing. There wasn’t… the state he was in I knew it wasn’t good.”
When asked why she fired her weapon Guyger began to cry again and said, “I was scared whoever was inside my apartment was gonna kill me and I’m sorry. I have to live with that every single day that I hurt…”
While there were bandages and other first aid items in her items Guyger said she didn’t use them because she was “panicked”.
The defense then turned the case over to the prosecution who began questioning Guyger’s true concern for Jean and her actions after the shooting.
Prosecutors again played video from inside a police squad car that showed Guyger standing outside talking with officers about whether or not to continue her body cam recording and sending text messages on her phone.
Prosecutor Jason Hermus also pointed out that Guyger got into the squad car and closed the door when the body of Jean was brought out and loaded into an ambulance. She said, “I looked at my phone because I didn’t want to see his body.”
Hermus questioned Guyger’s testimony about deleting text messages from her phone because she was ashamed of her relationship with Martin Rivera. In response to questioning Guyger admitted that two days after killing Jean she again starting sending flirtatious and sexually oriented messages to Rivera talking about getting drunk.
The prosecution then turned their attention to the 911 call placed by Guyger. Attorneys told the jury that the call lasted about 5 minutes and during that time Guyger repeated “I thought it was my apartment” nearly two dozen times, but never made any mention of Jean moving toward her.
Hermus: “You didn’t express one time that you shot him because he was coming at you.”
Guyger: “I did not over the phone.”
Hermus: You did not express one time that he was armed.”
Guyger: “I did not.”
Hermus: “You didn’t say one time that he put you in fear.”
Guyger: “I did not.”
Prosecutors then went into detail how Guyger never told others officers arriving at the scene that she felt Jean had a weapon.
The topic of CPR training was then addressed. Hermus questioned, “You were trained to do CPR in the academy were you not? Guyger said, “We were trained. I’ve never done it on an actual person.” When asked if she properly performed CPR on Jean she said, “No. I did not.”
Guyger further testified, “I tried to do a little CPR.” In response Hermusquestioned, “Why would you try and do ‘a little CPR’ on a man who is dying and needs your full attention?” She responded, “Because I had to keep getting up to see where I was at.”
When questiones that, “You must have stopped completely giving him CPR when you sent a message to Martin Rivera saying ‘I need you hurry…,’ right?” Guyger said, ““I did texted him that.”
Going back to what she saw when she opened the apartment door prosecutors asked about bright lights from the hallway partially illuminating the apartment and then questioned how Guyger could have shot twice at Jean as he was allegedly approaching and have one bullet end up “over in the right most corner of the apartment, over there, if this is where he’s standing?” She said, “That I cannot explain.”
Hermus: “When you shot at Mr. Jean you knew you were using deadly force against him?”
Hermus: You know what a bullet can do, don’t you?”
Guyger: “Yes I do.”
Hermus: “And when you shot at him twice you intended to kill him?”
Guyger: “Yes sir.”
As to Guyger shouting “Let me see your hands” prosecutors referred to testimony from the apartment residents who lived closest to Jean’s unit who said they never heard her yell the command.
Going back to the topic of training prosecutors questioned why Guyger entered the apartment if she felt threatened since police training dictates that “for your safety you should have taken a position of cover and concealment and got help.”
“Yes I did go in,” she said.
The topic then returned to Guyger’s interaction with Sgt. Rivera and the more than 16 minute conversation she had with him just before the shooting. Prosecutors intimated that Rivera was sending texts asking “Are you still there?” and that she responded “I’m just leaving” because the two were making plans to see each other that night, an assertion Guyger denied several times.
Referring to past claims that Guyger was tired after work, prosecutors focused on the fact that her plan for the evening was to go home, change clothes and head to the gym to workout. She testified, “No, I wasn’t completely drained. I just wanted to go workout.”
Prosecutors pointed out to jurors that Guyger had more than 3,215 hours of training, including attending de-escalation training in April.
The former Dallas police officer was then asked why she didn’t use an unopened package of “combat gauze” and other first aid tools in her police backpack, which were next to her at the time, to stop heavily bleeding after shooting Botham Jean. “It never crossed my mind,” she replied.
On redirect defense attorneys again asked Guyger what her state of mind was that night. Fighting back tears she said, “I was calm. I was relaxed.”
“I was thinking I was relaxed right before and all of a sudden I come home and then there’s somebody’s inside my apartment. My heart rate just shot up,” she said.