DALLAS (AP) — A former Dallas police officer testified Friday that after entering what she thought was her apartment last year, she shot the silhouetted figure inside because he was advancing on her in the dark and she feared for her life.
Amber Guyger, 31, told the jury at her murder trial that when she put her key in what she thought was her apartment door’s lock last September, the door opened because it hadn’t been fully closed. Fearing it was a break-in, she drew her service weapon and stepped inside.
Seeing someone inside, Guyger said she said, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands.” But she said she couldn’t see the person’s hands and he began coming toward her at a “fast-paced” walk. She said he yelled, “Hey, hey, hey!” right before she opened fire.
Guyger, who was kicked off the police force after she killed her neighbor, Botham Jean, told the court that she intended to kill him when she pulled the trigger, which she said is what she had been trained to do.
“I was scared he was going to kill me,” she said under questioning by her lawyers, who called her as their first witness. At one point during her testimony, Guyger began crying and shaking.
When prosecutors asked why she didn’t back away and radio for help once she suspected a break-in, Guyger said that entering the apartment “was the only option that went through my head.”
Guyger’s testimony marked the first time the public has heard directly from her since she killed Jean, who was a 26-year-old accountant who grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia before coming to the U.S. for college.
The basic facts of the unusual shooting are not in dispute. After working a long shift and while still in uniform, Guyger entered Jean’s fourth-floor apartment, which was directly above hers, and shot him.
Guyger says she fired in self-defense after mistaking Jean for a burglar. Her attorneys also say the identical physical appearance of the complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants parking on the wrong floor or trying to enter the wrong apartments.
Prosecutors have questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place, and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages with her police partner. Prosecutors also say Jean was no threat to Guyger, noting that he was in his living room eating a bowl of ice cream when she entered his apartment.
In a frantic 911 call played in court earlier this week and again Friday, Guyger says “I thought it was my apartment” nearly 20 times. The shooting attracted widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.
The trial began Monday.
Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report.