Dallas, TX – The family of a man who was killed by an off-duty Dallas police officer who mistakenly entered his apartment instead of her own is suing the apartment complex where the fatal shooting occurred.
Lee Merritt, attorney for the family of 26-year-old Botham Jean, said that the South Side Flats apartment building’s confusing layout and a faulty mechanism on Jean’s door contributed to his death, The Dallas Morning News reported.
“It wouldn’t shut all the way,” Merritt said. “If it had shut all the way, Amber Guyger wouldn’t have been able to get in…The lock would snag and not connect in response to certain types of weather.”
Approximately 70 percent of the tenants on the third and fourth floors of the South Side Flats said they have also gone to the incorrect floor in the past, he told The Dallas Morning News.
The now-former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger, 30, parked on the wrong floor of the complex’s parking garage after finishing her 14-hour shift just after 10 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2018, according to WCAU.
The arrest affidavit said the garage levels correspond with the floors in the apartment complex. Officer Guyger lived on the 3rd Floor of the South Side Flats apartment complex, and should have parked on the 3rd floor where her apartment was.
But the off-duty officer parked on the 4th floor of the parking garage and proceeded into the building, where she went to the door of the apartment she believed to be her own and inserted her key.
“She inserted a unique door key, with an electronic chip, into the door key hole,” the affidavit said. “The door, which was slightly ajar prior to Guyger’s arrival, fully opened under the force of the key insertion.”
The sound of the door opening alerted Jean, who was home alone in his apartment watching football.
The affidavit said Jean went to see what was going on at his front door.
Officer Guyger told investigators she saw the silhouette of someone in what she believed to be her own apartment, and drew her firearm, WCAU reported. The affidavit said she believed she was being robbed.
She gave verbal commands that were ignored by Jean, according to the affidavit. Then she fired her weapon in the dark at the person twice, striking him once.
The arrest affidavit said it wasn’t until Officer Guyger was already on the phone with 911, that she reached to turn on the lights and she realized she was not in her own apartment.
She went into the hall and checked the address on the door, and confirmed for the dispatchers that she was in unit 1478, one floor above her own apartment, WCAU reported.
Jean was transported to Baylor Medical Center in Dallas, where he later died.
On Oct. 1, 2019, Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn recently removed the city of Dallas from a civil lawsuit filed by Jean’s family, The Dallas Morning News reported.
The lawsuit accused the city of failing to properly train officers, resulting in an alleged pattern of excessive force.
Lynn determined that the lawsuit failed to prove that the city was liable for Jean’s death, and noted that Officer Guyger was also off-duty at the time of the fatal encounter.
“When a police officer observes a crime, when she responds to it, she goes back on duty,” Merritt told The Dallas Morning News. “They are considered to be back on duty.”
“She came to her door, she heard rumbling inside and she believed she was being burglarized,” he added. “She started offering verbal commands. Clearly now, she’s operating as a police officer. In fact, she used the words, ‘My training kicked in.’”
The family is appealing Lynn’s decision.
Guyger is also listed as a defendant in the same lawsuit, WFAA reported.