The door of the Dallas apartment where Amber Guyger shot dead her neighbor had a structural flaw that caused it not to close properly, according to a lead investigator who testified that he doesn’t believe the killing was unlawful.
Guyger, a fired Dallas police officer, is on trial for fatally shooting her 26-year-old neighbor Botham Jean last year after she said she mistakenly entered his apartment thinking it was her own.
Defense attorneys questioned Texas Ranger David Armstrong on Wednesday morning on the third day of the trial where he testified that he doesn’t think Guyger committed a crime.
‘I don’t believe that (the shooting) was reckless or criminally negligent based on the totality of the investigation and the circumstances and facts,’ Armstrong said.
The jury wasn’t present when he said he believed she acted reasonably after perceiving Jean as a threat. The judge later ruled that the jury couldn’t hear the Texas Ranger’s opinion of the reasonableness of Guyger’s actions.
The door of the Dallas apartment where Amber Guyger shot dead her neighbor after saying she mistakenly thought it was her own had a structural flaw that caused it not to latch and close properly, an investigator has testified. The images above were taken by authorities during their investigation
Amber Guyger, a fired Dallas police officer, is on trial for fatally shooting her 26-year-old neighbor Botham Jean last year after she said she mistakenly entered his apartment thinking it was her own
In the jury’s presence, Armstrong, who was leading the investigation, testified that the victim’s front door had a flaw that would sometimes result in it not closing properly.
At the time of her arrest, Guyger said she had found the door of the apartment she thought was hers ‘slightly ajar’.
She claimed the door opened when she used her electronic key to enter the apartment and she believed she was being robbed when she saw Jean.
During his testimony on Wednesday, Armstrong said it appeared the screws in the strike plate of Jean’s door had been screwed in too far, which caused it to ‘bow out’.
This flaw prevented the door from closing properly as it was designed to do, Armstrong told the court.
He said it meant that the door would sometimes latch but other times it wouldn’t secure and close properly.
Defense attorneys said Jean’s door was open the day Guyger entered his apartment and shot him dead.
The Texas Rangers, who Armstrong works for, are the ones who initially only charged Guyger with manslaughter. A subsequent grand jury chose to indict her on the more serious charge of murder.
Earlier during Armstrong’s testimony, defense attorneys showed photos to the jury that compared Guyger’s apartment layout to that of Jean’s home.
Armstrong testified that the layouts of the apartment were the same and that both Guyger and Jean had their couch and TVs in the same position.
Photos comparing views of the hallways, parking garages and doorways on the third and fourth floor of the apartment complex were also shown to the court.
When questioned by defense attorneys, Armstrong agreed that they looked similar.
Armstrong said it appeared the screws in the strike plate had been screwed in too far, which caused it to ‘bow out’. Pictured above is a photo of the strike plate that was shown to jurors on Wednesday
Armstrong said this flaw prevented the door from closing properly as it was designed to do. He said it meant that the door would sometimes latch but other times it wouldn’t secure and close properly
Armstrong testified that going to the wrong apartment was common at that complex.
Armstrong said he interviewed 297 of the 349 residents living at the apartment complex. He said 46 of those residents had mistakenly gone to the wrong floor and put their key in the door before.
The percentage was higher for those living on the third and fourth floors – the same floors as Guyger and Jean – with 38 saying they had unintentionally walked to the wrong apartment.
Armstrong also said that 93 of the residents had parked on the wrong floor in the parking garage on previous occasions. He said 76 of those residents lived on the third or fourth floor.
Guyger’s attorney has previously argued that the identical look of the apartment complex from floor to floor often led to confusion among tenants.
The defense has argued that dozens of residents regularly parked on the wrong floor or attempted to enter the wrong apartment.
Her attorney said the floors of the parking garage were not clearly marked so it was understandable when Guyger, tired from a long shift, pushed open a door and believed an intruder was inside.
Guyger ‘was on autopilot,’ he said of her entrance to Jean’s apartment. ‘She had tunnel vision.’
Dallas County assistant district attorney Jason Hermus said earlier in the trial that Guyger returned home from work the night of the shooting and parked on the fourth floor instead of the third floor.
He said that when she arrived at what she thought was her unit, she failed to notice the bright red semi-circle welcome mat in front of Jean’s apartment.
Jean’s apartment was also unlocked, messy and smelled of marijuana, three more signs that should have tipped Guyger off that it was not her apartment, according to Hermus.
Earlier during Armstrong’s testimony, defense attorneys showed photos to the jury that compared Guyger’s apartment layout to that of Jean’s home. Pictured above is Jean’s apartment in the days after his death
Armstrong testified that the layouts of the apartment were the same and that both Guyger and Jean had their couch and TVs in the same position. Pictured above is Guyger’s apartment in the days after the shooting
The court was shown the views down the hallways on the fourth floor (left) where Jean lived and the third floor (right) where Guyger lived
Defense attorneys also showed comparisons of the view from the parking garage of the third and fourth floors within the apartment complex
Despite the clues, Hermus said she still burst through the door and opened fire, striking Jean once in the chest as he watched television and ate a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
‘He was in the sanctuary of his home doing no harm to anyone,’ Hermus said. ‘There he lay on his back in his home bleeding to death alone with his killer.’
The case has attracted intense scrutiny for its strange circumstances and as one in a chain of shootings of black men by white police officers.
Guyger was off duty but still in uniform when she shot Jean in his home on the evening of September 6, 2018.
She told investigators that after a 15-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 ajar.
Believing she was at her own apartment and seeing a silhouette of a figure who didn’t respond to verbal commands, Guyger said she fired two shots, killing him.
During the trial, jurors were played the 911 call Guyger made to dispatchers about the shooting.
In the 911 call, Guyger tells the dispatcher that she shot Jean because she thought she was in her own apartment.
In the call, Guyger says ‘I thought it was my apartment’ nearly 20 times. She also says: ‘I’m gonna lose my job’ and ‘I am going to need a supervisor.’
Defense attorneys questioned Texas Ranger David Armstrong on Wednesday morning on the third day of the 31-year-old’s trial. He was in charge of leading the investigation after the Texas Rangers took it on from police
Guyger told investigators she mistakenly entered the apartment of Jean, which was one floor above her own, when she returned home from work on the evening of September 6, 2018
‘I’m f****d. Oh my God. I’m sorry,’ Guyger says in the recording.
Throughout the call, she also spoke to Jean, called him ‘bud’ and encouraged him to stay alive.
Prosecutors have said Guyger was on the phone with her police partner Martin Rivera, who she was having a sexual relationship with, for 16 minutes as she headed back to to her apartment that night in September 2018.
They told jurors that Guyger and Rivera had plans to meet up later that night.
Rivera, however, denied during his testimony on Monday that he had made any plans to rendezvous with Guyger later that night.
Prosecutors had earlier revealed that the two had exchanged sexually explicit messages and images earlier that day.
Rivera said 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 not know why she had done that but admitted that he had also deleted their text exchanges.
Amber Guyger was shown (left) in police body camera footage played to the jury during her murder trial as first responders arrived to the Dallas apartment where she shot her neighbor Botham Jean last year
Guyger was captured on an officer’s body cam standing in the corridor outside on her phone as CPR was being given to Jean inside, according to prosecutors
The jury was shown footage from a body camera worn by one of two officers who arrived at the apartment after Guyger called 911 to report the shooting that night in September 2018.
Officers could be seen running towards Jean’s apartment as Guyger screamed out that she was off-duty. Guyger was standing near the front door when the officers arrived and could be heard saying: ‘I thought it was my apartment’.
The footage showed the two officers immediately rendering CPR to Jean who was shown lying on the floor surrounded by blood.
Guyger appeared to be pushed out of the apartment while the officers gave Jean first aid.
Prosecutors then showed another body cam image that showed Guyger standing in hallway outside the apartment looking at her phone as CPR was being administered.
She was also shown hugging and speaking to fellow officers on the scene, which prosecutors have argued showed she was given special treatment.
Guyger was arrested 72 hours later and then charged with just manslaughter.
It sparked anger in the African-American community, which saw the case as potentially another one of a white police officer getting off lightly for killing a black man.
The department took two weeks to fire Guyger despite charging her with manslaughter after Botham’s death.
Following the backlash and a grand jury investigation, Guyger was charged with first-degree murder. The charge is punishable under Texas law with up to life in prison.
The jury will have to decide whether Guyger committed murder, a lesser offense such as manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, or no crime at all.