A jury sentenced former Dallas, Texas police officer Amber Guyger to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for the murder of an unarmed black man, Botham Jean. She will be eligible for parole after 5 years.
Guyger shot Jean in the chest in September 2018, when she apparently went into the apartment directly above her own and mistakenly thought that Jean, her neighbor, was an intruder. He was sitting on the couch, watching television, and eating vanilla ice cream.
Guyger, who said she feared for her safety, had faced a total of 99 years in prison. Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 28 years because Jean would have just turned 28 if he were still alive.
Prosecutor LaQuita Long stressed accountability for Guyger, who was fired after the shooting. “The only reason we all sit in this courtroom today is because of her actions,” she said. “And for her actions, there must be consequences.”
Bertrum Jean expressed disbelief at his son’s murder. “I’ll never see him again and I still want to see him.” He added: “Such a sweet boy. He tried his best to live a good honest life. He loved God, he loved everyone. How could this happen to him?”
Outside the courtroom, people chanted: “No justice, no peace.”
Prosecutors showed Guyger’s racist text messages, including a 2018 exchange about working a Martin Luther King Day parade.
Someone apparently wrote, “When does this end lol,” and Guyger replied: “When MLK is dead… oh wait…”
Guyger’s attorney, Toby Shook, said the murder was unusual. “This event wasn’t planned,” he said. “This event is so unique, you’ll never see it again in the history of the United States.”
Jean’s brother, Brandt Jean, said that he forgave Guyger, hugging her. The judge hugged her as well.
“If you truly are sorry,” Jean’s brother said, “I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”
Michael Waters, a Reverend in Dallas, said that the sentence felt like a betrayal.
“It’s amazing how quickly injustice can be seized from the hands of justice,” he said. “This is a travesty.”