Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer convicted of murder in the shooting that killed neighbor Botham Jean, was sentenced by a jury Wednesday to 10 years behind bars.
Prosecutors had requested jurors sentence Guyger to 28 years in prison to represent Jean's 28th birthday this past Sunday. Impassioned Black Lives Matter activists expressed outrage at what they considered a light sentence.
Still, the scene in court was emotional. In a victim impact statement, Jean's 18-year-old brother, Brandt, said he forgave Guyger and hoped that she would devote her life to Christ, before proceeding to hug her in the middle of the courtroom.
"I don't want to say twice or for the hundredth time how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that," Brandt said. "I don't even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you because I know that's exactly what Botham would want."
"That 10 years in prison is 10 years for her reflection and for her to change her life but there is much more to be done by the city of Dallas," Jean's mother, Allison, said at a news conference Wednesday. "The corruption that we saw during this process must stop and it must stop for you. After now, I leave Dallas but you live in Dallas. and it must stop for everyone."
"We did not get justice and this is not fair. How many of us is it going to take? There shouldn't be another mother after us," one tearful protester said.
Protestors rallied outside the courthouse chanting, "No justice no peace," with one man saying, "Are we surprised? I'm not surprised. The system doesn't value us and it never will and I don't expect it to."
Guyger, a four-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, was fired from the police force and charged with manslaughter after she entered Jean's apartment on Sept. 6, 2018, thinking it was her own and shot him twice, hitting him once, fatally, in the torso. She was indicted on a murder charge two months later.
Guyger lived in the same apartment complex as the 26-year-old victim and was still in uniform after she returned from a 13-hour shift with the police department.
At 9:59 p.m. on that night, Guyger allegedly parked on the fourth floor of the Southside Flats apartment complex by accident, even though her apartment was located on the third floor. She then entered Jean’s apartment through the partially ajar front door and drew her handgun when she noticed “a large silhouette” in the apartment, according to the police arrest warrant affidavit that recounted Guyger’s version of events. Jean ignored her verbal commands and she shot at him.
The unique case gripped the nation, reigniting racial tensions between law enforcement and the black community and raising questions about the use of deadly force by white officers against black people.
"The poor training or the poor use of what should have been training-- that should never ever happen again," Allison Jean said. "If this was applied in the way it ought to have been taught, my son would have been alive today. If Amber Guyger was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be standing here today."
"His privacy was violated. She intruded on him, and that was not enough, she killed him," she continued.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Jean's family said Tuesday, "Nothing will bring Botham back, but today his family has found some measure of justice. What happened on September 6, 2018, is clear to everyone: This officer saw a black man and shot, without reason and without justification. The jury's thoughtful verdict sets a powerful precedent for future cases, telling law enforcement officers that they cannot hide behind the badge but instead will face justice for their wrongful actions."
"Our life must move on but our life must move on with change," Allison Jean said. "There's got to be a better day and that better day starts with each and every one of us. The city of Dallas needs to clean up inside. The Dallas PD has a lot of laundry to do."
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot encouraged the community to follow Brandt Jean's lead. "I think that that young man was speaking from his heart. I think that's an amazing act of healing and forgiveness that is rare in our society."
He continued, "Whoever's unsatisfied, I hope they can get satisfied."