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Former Dallas cop gets 10 years for killing neighbor

Updated: October 02, 2019 04:47 PM

A white former Dallas police officer was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below.

Amber Guyger didn’t appear to show much reaction, at least from the angle of a live camera stream, as the judge read the jury’s sentence. It came a day after the jury convicted her of murder in the September 2018 killing of Botham Jean.

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Guyger’s sentence was met with boos and jeers by a crowd gathered outside the courtroom. “It’s a slap in the face,” one woman said.

As Jean’s family walked out of the courtroom, the group that had been outside began a chant of, “No justice! No peace!” Two young black women hugged each other and cried.

Prosecutors had asked jurors to sentence Guyger to at least 28 years, which is how old Jean would have been if he was still alive.

The jury could have sentenced the former officer to up to life in prison or as little as two years.

Jury convicts ex-police officer who fatally shot neighbor

The basic facts of the unusual shooting were not in dispute throughout the trial. Guyger, returning from a long shift that night, entered Jean’s fourth-floor apartment and shot him. He had been eating a bowl of ice cream before she fired.

Guyger said she parked on the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was directly below his, and mistook him for a burglar. In the frantic 911 call played repeatedly during the trial, Guyger said "I thought it was my apartment" nearly 20 times. Her lawyers argued that the identical physical appearance of the apartment complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants going to the wrong apartments.

But prosecutors questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place. They also asked why she didn’t call for backup instead of walking into the apartment if she thought she was being burglarized and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages she had been exchanging with her police partner, who was also her lover.

The shooting 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.

One of the Jean family lawyers hailed the verdict as "a victory for black people in America" after it was handed down Tuesday.

The jury was largely made up of women and people of color.

Here's a look at that and other high-profile cases in recent years in which officers were charged in the fatal shootings of black people:

AMBER GUYGER

Guyger was indicted in November and convicted Tuesday for the September 2018 killing of 26-year-old Botham Jean. Authorities say Guyger told investigators that while returning home from work, she mistook Jean's door for her own and that she shot him inside his home when he didn't obey her commands. In Texas, the sentence for murder is from five to 99 years in prison, but the judge also instructed jurors on a so-called sudden passion defense, which carries a range of two to 20 years behind bars.

JASON VAN DYKE

A jury convicted Officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. The white Chicago police officer shot the black teenager 16 times. The release of police dashcam video 13 months after the shooting sparked large protests and led to the ouster of Chicago's top police official. Three other officers were acquitted of trying to cover up the shooting.

ROBERT BATES

Bates, a white Tulsa County volunteer sheriff's deputy, was sentenced in 2016 to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter in the 2015 death of Eric Harris, 44, who was unarmed and restrained. Bates served less than half the sentence.

JAMES BURNS

Burns, a white Atlanta police officer was charged with felony murder and other counts in the June 2016 death of Deravis Caine Rogers, 22. Prosecutors say Burns was responding to a suspicious person call when he fired shots into a car driven by Rogers, killing him. In September 2018, a new indictment reinstated felony murder charges against the former officer barely a month after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard dropped the original indictment. The new indictment charged Burns with aggravated assault and violating his oath of office.

DOMINIQUE HEAGGAN-BROWN

Heaggan-Brown, a black Milwaukee police officer, was acquitted in June 2017 of first-degree reckless homicide after shooting 23-year-old Sylville Smith during a foot chase in August 2016. Heaggan-Brown was fired after unrelated sexual-assault allegations surfaced.

PETER LIANG

Liang, a rookie police officer in New York City, was convicted of manslaughter in 2016 for the 2014 death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley. Liang, an American of Chinese descent, said he was patrolling a public housing high-rise with his gun drawn when a sound startled him and he fired accidentally. A bullet ricocheted off a wall, hitting Gurley. A judge reduced the conviction to negligent homicide and sentenced Liang to five years' probation and 800 hours of community service.

ROY OLIVER

Oliver was convicted of murder in the 2017 death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Oliver, a white police officer in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs, fired into a car packed with black teenagers, killing Edwards.

RYAN POWNALL

Pownall is charged with third-degree murder for the 2017 death of 30-year-old David Jones, who was shot in the back as he fled. Pownall, who is white, was fired from the Philadelphia police force last year. He is awaiting trial.

MICHAEL ROSFELD

In March, Rosfeld was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. after the teen fled from a traffic stop on June 19 in Pennsylvania.

BETTY SHELBY

Shelby, who was a white police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was acquitted of manslaughter after shooting 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in 2016. Crutcher, who was black, was unarmed. Shelby resigned from the Tulsa Police Department and later went to work for an area sheriff's office.

MICHAEL SLAGER

Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges after killing 50-year-old Walter Scott in 2015. The white North Charleston police officer fired at Scott's back from 17 feet (5 meters) away. Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December 2017. His conviction was appealed and upheld.

JASON STOCKLEY

Stockley, a white St. Louis police officer, was acquitted of murder in 2017 in the 2011 shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. Stockley insisted he saw Smith holding a gun and felt that he was in imminent danger. Prosecutors accused Stockley of planting a gun in Smith's car.

RAYMOND TENSING

Tensing, a white University of Cincinnati police officer, was tried twice for murder after he killed Samuel DuBose, whom he pulled over for driving without a front license plate in 2015. DuBose, who was black, was unarmed. The jury was hung both times and the charges were dismissed. Tensing received $350,000 from the university when he agreed to resign.

JERONIMO YANEZ

Yanez, a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, was charged with second-degree manslaughter after he fatally shot a 32-year-old black motorist, Philando Castile, in 2016. Yanez, who is Latino, was acquitted in June 2017. He has left the police department.

ANDREW DELKE

Delke, a white police officer in Nashville, Tennessee, was charged with criminal homicide in the death of 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick after surveillance footage appeared to show him chasing the black man and opening fire as he fled from the officer in July. Delke claims Hambrick pointed a gun at him, but prosecutors question that claim. A grand jury indicted Delke in January on a charge of first-degree murder.

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Associated Press

(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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