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Dallas officer tells 911: ‘I thought it was my apartment’

FILE – in This file photo provided by the Mesquite Police Department gives an Amber Guyger, taken Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. The former Dallas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in his own home told a 911 dispatcher “I thought it was my apartment” almost 20 times as she waited for the emergency services to arrive. That is according to a 911 recording obtained by Dallas TV station WFAA. Guyger is charged in the September 2018 killing Botham Jean. (Mesquite Police department via AP)

DALLAS – former Dallas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in his own home told a 911 dispatcher “I thought it was my apartment” almost 20 times as she waited for the emergency services to come, according to a recording of the call obtained by a Dallas TV station.

“I’m an off-duty officer. I thought I was in my apartment and I shot a man who thought he was, thought it was my apartment,” Amber Guyger said in Sept. 6 recording obtained by WFAA .

Guyger, who is white, is charged in the killing of Botham Jean, and it is set to the process later this year. She has said that she is in Jean’s apartment, thought it her own, and fatally shot him. The department fired her in the weeks after the shooting.

On the call, Guyger can be heard to apologise to Jean, who was a 26-year-old native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, who worked in Dallas for a accounting and consulting firm.

WFAA has not said how it obtained the recording.

Dallas police have no permission for the audio from the release, and the department has opened an internal affairs investigation in the case, said a Senior Cpl. Melinda Gutierrez. The department again refused to allow the recording to The Associated Press in response to a public records request, saying Tuesday, is exempt as part of an ongoing criminal case. A spokeswoman for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office and one of Guyger attorneys, Toby Shook, declined to comment, citing a judge’s gag order in the case.

Guyger sounds hectic during the almost six-minute conversation, saying: “I’m going to lose my job” and “I am going to a supervisor.” At one point, she seems to ask how she ended up in Jean’s apartment and says, “I’m so tired.” The call ends when the police arrive, and Guyger tells them, “No, he’s mine. I’m off-duty, I’m off duty.”

Lawyer Daryl Washington, who as a representative of Jean’s family, noted that Guyger, don’t tell the operator she was afraid of Jean, or that they thought he was an intruder.

“There was nothing in that video or the recording where ever they indicated that they thought that Botham tried to harm her,” Washington told WFAA. “She was very fast to shoot without asking a lot of questions.”

Lawyers running the case say that the 911 recording can be powerful trial evidence that Guyger sincerely thought she was in her own apartment, but that alone is not exculpatory.

The prosecutors will grill Guyger about how and why they saw Jean the fourth-floor apartment for her own on the third floor, said Heath Harris, a criminal defense lawyer and former assistant district attorney for Dallas County. Guyger the defense will largely depend on whether they can convince a jury that a reasonable mistake, ” he said.

“This is going to all come down to the selection of the jury,” said Harris. “She is going to testify, and make sure that the jury will believe her.”

The intense attention of the public on Guyger would be the case, difficulty finding unbiased jurors in Dallas. But the release of the 911 recording is not, in itself, reason for a location change, said John Helms, a Texas criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor.

In the lower profile of the cases, it is not uncommon for 911 calls to the public before the process. And with so much attention in the media Guyger the case of those paying most attention will likely hear what they want to in the shooting, Helms said.

“I don’t know how many minds are going to change, because most people who are interested have already formed an opinion,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to change public opinion.”

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Bleeding reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.

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