UPDATED: 12:22 p.m. EDT —
Amber Guyger took the stand at her own murder trial on Friday, testifying on everything from her time as a youth to the fateful night of Sept. 8, 2018, when she shot and killed Botham Jean in his own apartment in Dallas.
One day after the prosecution rested its case, Guyger’s attorneys attempted to establish her as a sympathetic human, as opposed to the trigger-happy cop who shot on sight that her actions last year seemed to back up.
She came across as reserved and soft-spoken, something that was likely by design but also was probably exacerbated by her apparent nervousness.
The defense said Guyger attended a “multicultural” school and was in a Mariachi band through high school, apparent attempts to establish that she was not racist. Guyger said she always wanted to be a police officer and took measures to make that a reality as early as during high school, when she said she would do ride-alongs with the force in Arlington, Texas, where she grew up.
“I just wanted to help people and it was the one thing I thought I could do to help,” she said of wanting to be a police officer.
When the topic moved to her training, she said she was taught beginning in the police academy how to properly give commands. Guyger said “Let me see your hands!” is one of the main commands she was they’re trained in at the academy. “If you can’t see them,” she testified in hypothetical reference to a suspect’s hands, “they’re usually reaching for a weapon that can be used against us.”
That matter is highly contentious because the prosecution’s witnesses who were Jean’s neighbors and in their apartments during the shooting testified under oath that they never heard any verbal commands being given before hearing the gunshots.
In an apparent effort to explain how she forced her way into Jean’s apartment, Guyger also testified about the problems she said she had previously experienced with the fob key and lock on her apartment door.
But when the defense moved to question her about the actual shooting, Guyger began sobbing before falling into an uncontrollable crying spell. Kemp promptly announced a recess.
When court resumed after taking a brief break to address Guyger’s emotional state, she was asked about what she thought when she entered Jean’s apartment.
“I thought I came home and somebody, they’re inside my apartment,” she said comparing the feeling she experienced to “being in a car wreck. You don’t know what’s gonna happen next. It’s just fear, pure fear. She said seeing a silhouette inside of the apartment was “A feeling you never want to feel again.”
She said she drew her gun and yelled, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands!” She amplified her voice to emphasize how loudly she said she gave the commands. She said Jean started coming toward her at “a face past walk,” saying he “wasn’t running.” She said she feared for her life.
“I thought he was gonna kill me,” she testified.
She said it wasn’t until she got to the body that she said she realized she was not in her apartment.
Saying she was confused, she said that’s when she called 911 and said she began “doing some compressions with my left hand” and added that she had never done CPR before. With a voice quivering, Guyger said she stopped the compressions because the 911 dispatcher asked where she was, prompting her to get up and go outside of the apartment to
She said she only noticed Jean’s TV was on after she got to his body.
The prosecution has contended that Guyger should have been able to see Jean in the apartment from the bright TV rays emitting light.
Guyger said she was trying to keep Jean alive.
“I wanted him to keep breathing,” she said, adding that at that point Jean “was a little conscious.”
After the 911 was played aloud, Guyger revealed what she said was going through her mind.
“That I shot an innocent man,” she said.
On the accusations that she was more concerned with herself than trying to save Jean’s life, Guyger testified why she said she texted Dallas Police Officer Martin Rivera, a married man with whom she had an affair.
“I was by myself and with someone I had just shot, she said. “I didn’t have the help of another partner to help with the CPR. I was alone, that was the scariest thing.”
She then offered up her most emotional testimony about the effects she said the shooting had on her.
“I feel like a terrible person. I feel like a piece of crap. I ask God for forgiveness,” she said. “I wish he was the one with the gun and he had killed me. I never wanted to take a person’s life.”
Under cross-examination, the prosecution pointed out that Guyger’s emotional appearance in court belied her actions the night she killed Jean, when he said she was not in tears while sitting comfortably in the squad car using her phone. The prosecution played video surveillance from that night when Guyger was in the car while Jean’s dying body was wheeled past her. The prosecution said that was proof she only cared about herself and not Jean.
“I looked at my phone because I didn’t want to see his body,” she said in a voice that was decidedly absent of the same soft-spoken voice she displayed when she first took the stand.
Guyger admitted that two days after the shooting she was back to sexting with Rivera, including talking about getting drunk and having sex with him, as Botham Jean’s family was preparing to bury him.
“Yes I did,” she said.
She also admitted under aggressive questioning that she never once said during the 911 call that she was scared or that she thought he had a gun. She also admitted that she never said during the call that Jean was charging at her.
Guyger also admitted that she has been trained and certified in how to administer CPR.
“I tried to do a little CPR,” she said.
She also admitted to deciding to text instead of administering CPR.
“You put your needs and your wants over his,” the prosecutor said to Guyger.
Guyger also couldn’t account for why there was no blood on her uniform or shoes. That was in contrast to the first responders, who had Jean’s blood splattered on them after performing CPR.
Before Guyger took the stand, Judge Tammy Kemp announced that she would not allow anyone to testify about whether anyone thinks the former officer’s actions were reasonable.
“I think it disingenuous to allow testimony that asserts a fact that we have no basis on which to base that assumption,” Kemp said before the jury was seated in the courtroom.
That was a direct reference to Texas Rangers officer David Armstrong, who testified Monday that he didn’t believe a crime had been committed when Guyger shot Jean.
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.