A year’s worth of emotions and confusion have led to the eve of the murder trial for Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer charged in the death of Botham Jean.
Every detail of the case will be carefully examined in a trial that is expected to take up to two weeks. The jury and four alternates have already been told they will likely be sequestered for the duration to keep them from seeing news coverage of the case.
Jean's death gained national attention, and many called it another example of white police officers killing unarmed black men.
Jean was inside his own home the night of Sept. 6, 2018, when Guyger shot and killed him.
Guyger told investigators that after working a 13-hour shift, she mistakenly parked on the wrong floor of the South Side Flats apartments, a block away from Dallas Police Department.
She was off duty but still in uniform.
She walked down the wrong hall to the wrong door and saw what she told detectives looked like a silhouette in what she thought was her home. She fired her gun, shooting and killing Jean.
“Botham Shem Jean was not a silhouette,” said family friend Dane Felicien at Jean’s funeral. “Botham Shem Jean was a godly man. A godly man."
The crowd of more than 1,500 people gathered inside Greenville Avenue Church of Christ stood and applauded.
“Your people are hurt, scared, tired, distrusting, disgusted and even angry,” said minister Sammie Berry in prayer at the funeral for Botham Jean. Berry is the minister of Dallas West Church of Christ in Dallas, where Jean had led the congregation in song just four days before his death.
Jean, 26, was born and raised in St. Lucia. He moved to the United States for college and was an accountant in Dallas.
In the days before the funeral, outrage had been building. The Texas Rangers, who’d been called in by Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall to conduct an independent investigation, wrote a manslaughter arrest warrant for Guyger.
Guyger to turn herself in to the Kaufman County Jail, almost 72 hours after the shooting.
She spent just one hour in custody before posting bond, leading Jean’s family and activists across the country to cry foul. They claimed she was being given preferential treatment because she was a law enforcement officer.
“She’s being treated like a police officer in the U.S. when they commit a crime. She shouldn’t have left that scene without being in handcuffs that day,” said Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing the Jean family.
Jean’s mother said manslaughter was too light of a charge. She said there was too little accountability for Guyger’s actions. Her frustration grew as time passed.
“My son’s life matters,” Allison Jean said in the days after her son’s death. “Give me justice for my son.“
“I will not sit back and see that justice does not prevail,” she added.
As the family mourned, protesters marched – night and day, in rain and in heat. They even interrupted a Dallas City Council meeting.
“I am a person that deserves to be heard!” a protester yelled at council members.
Protests and vigils continued, with activists calling on Hall to fire Guyger and demanding the manslaughter charge be increased to murder.
Guyger was fired from the Dallas Police Department 18 days after the shooting.
In late November, a Dallas County grand jury indicted Guyger on a murder charge.
“I am indeed satisfied with the indictment of murder for Amber Guyger because I believe she inflicted tremendous evil on my son,” Allison Jean said on the day of the indictment.
The restless energy that had captivated the city of Dallas seemed to calm, but the question of how this could possibly happen hung in the air.
On April 29, WFAA aired an exclusively obtained recording of Guyger’s call to 911.
“I’m an off-duty officer. I thought I was in my apartment. And I shot a guy thinking it was my apartment,” Guyger told the 911 operator.
“I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was my apartment. I could have sworn I parked on the third floor,” she said. She repeated herself multiple times.
Jurors will likely hear the recording this week during the trial.
In a courtroom, feelings are separated from facts. But in this case, in this city, some wonder whether that distinction is possible.