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Saturday, April 10, 2021

After the death of Botham Jean, should a Dallas officer be fired? Those decisions often take time.

A dozen days after an unarmed black man was shot and killed in his apartment in Dallas, the white off-duty police officer who killed him remains on the job.

Officer Amber Guyger’s continued employment — she’s currently on paid administrative leave — has stoked the growing anger surrounding the unprecedented shooting and become a point of contention in the state’s highest-profile political campaign.

At a Dallas rally Friday night, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke suggested she should be fired.

“I don’t understand given the actions how anyone can come to any other conclusion,” he told KDFW-TV.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz later criticized that stance, saying he wished O’Rourke “and Democrats weren’t so quick to always blame the police officer.” He described the shooting as a tragedy and nightmare, but said we have a legal system in place to learn the facts.

Though Guyger already faces a charge of manslaughter, it’s not unusual for her to still have her job at this stage of the investigation. Police departments often struggle to balance giving a fair review of an officer’s actions and ensuring accountability after a seemingly-unjustified shooting or incident. While there have been cases, including some in Dallas, where officers are fired quickly after a shooting, the process usually takes time.

Still, in a case where the facts that have been made public seem to clearly put the officer in the wrong, many think 12 days is too long to wait for action.

On Sept. 6, Guyger returned to her apartment complex after a shift as a Dallas police officer, entered the wrong unit — exactly one floor above her own — and shot and killed the unarmed resident, 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean, according to her arrest affidavit. Guyger said she mistook the apartment for her own and thought Jean was an intruder; Jean’s family lawyer has said the officer’s statement is “demonstrably false.”

Since then, protests have erupted across the city, including at the Dallas Cowboys’ first home game of the season Sunday night, where activists marched with coffins to AT&T Stadium, according to The Dallas Morning News. The Dallas Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Guyger’s status.

The city’s reaction stands in stark contrast to the Balch Springs shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards last year. The officer, Roy Oliver, was fired by the smaller Dallas County department three days after the shooting and sentenced to 15 years in prison on a murder conviction last month.

Read this story in original format at the Texas Tribune.

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