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    LEAKED: “Wrong Apartment” Shooting 911 Recording

    LEAKED: “Wrong Apartment” Shooting 911 Recording

    Guyger repeats 20 times during 911 call she thought she was in her own apartment

    There was a recent leak, in violation of court order, of the 911 call made by former Dallas cop Amber Guyger (mugshot in featured image). The call came immediately after she shot and killed Botham Jean when she mistakenly walked into his apartment, thinking it was her apartment and perceived him as an intruder.

    This post examines some of the legal implications of Guyger’s statements during that 911 call.

    The evening of September 6, 2018, then Dallas police officer Amber Guyger returned home to her apartment after a 12-hour shift. As she approached her apartment door, she noted it partly ajar. Opening the door, she spotted a shadowed figure inside her apartment. Drawing her service pistol, she verbally challenged the intruder. When the intruder was non-compliant with her verbal commands, she fired twice, mortally wounding the intruder. (All of this comes from Guyger’s narrative of events.)

    Oops: A Mistaken Killing

    There was just one problem: Guyger wasn’t at her apartment at all, but rather at the apartment one floor above her own. This made the man she shot, Botham Jean, not an intruder but a man merely minding his own business in his apartment when Guyger suddenly showed up and shot him.

    The Dallas police department has since fired Guyger and charged her initially with manslaughter, which later became a murder charge.

    Awful But Lawful Fatal Shootings

    It is undisputed that Botham Jean engaged in no conduct that justified Guyger shooting and killing him. To the surprise of many, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Guyger committed a crime.

    How can it be lawful to kill someone who has not done anything to warrant a person killing them? The explanation lies in the fact that the law does not require a defender to make sound decisions in self-defense. The law merely requires a defender to make reasonable decisions in self-defense. Mistaken perceptions and actions in self-defense may be entirely lawful, so long as they are reasonable mistakes.

    Lawyers and cops often refer to such cases as “awful, but lawful.”

    Legal Issues are Relatively Straightforward

    The controlling issues, in this case, are rather straightforward, and I’ve previously written about them in this prior blog post:

    News: ‘Oops, Wrong Apartment’ Shooting Bumped to Murder (12/1/18)

    As I wrote in that earlier post:

    There is only one legal issue, and only two factual questions, that really control the outcome in this case (from a legal perspective–I don’t claim to have any political expertise).

    The first question is: Had the shooting actually taken place in Guyger’s own apartment, and Jean was a genuine intruder upon whom Guyger stumbled, under poor lighting conditions and with Jean unresponsive to her commands, would she have been lawfully justified in shooting him?

    If the answer to the first question is “yes,” [as it would seem almost certainly the case] the second question is: Was Guyger’s entry into Jean’s apartment an act that qualifies as criminally reckless? Or, conversely, was Guyger’s mistaken entry into Jean’s apartment a reasonable mistake under the circumstances?

    The jury in this case will be tasked with evaluating both (1) do they believe that Guyger had a genuine, good faith belief that she was walking into her own apartment, and (2) was that belief one that would have been held by a reasonable and prudent person under the circumstances (including such factors as poor lighting, the fact that she’d just completed a 14 12-hour shift, that her key-card appeared to function normally to open the door, etc.).

    And:

    If the jury concludes that Guyger would have been entitled to use deadly force against Jean had she been in her own apartment, and if the prosecution fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Guyger’s mistaken entry into Jean’s apartment was criminally negligent, an acquittal would be the appropriate verdict in this case.

    Awful, but lawful.

    Leaked: Recording of Guyger’s 911 Call

    Guyger called 911 immediately after shooting Jean, but until recently the trial judge sealed the recording. Someone has since leaked the recording, presumably by the Dallas police department, and to the considerable consternation of the judge.

    News reports about the leaked 911 recording seem to be consistently presenting it as bad for Guyger’s defense like in this news story:

    In the seconds after Dallas police officer Amber Guyger shot and killed a man inside his own apartment last year, she called 911 and expressed concern that she would lose her job instead of performing CPR on him.

    This view, however, rather misses the point, on several levels.

    Does 911 Call Help or Hurt Guyger’s Narrative?

    For example, we’ve no idea if CPR would have been an appropriate response by Guyger. CPR, after all, is necessary only if someone has stopped breathing. It’s entirely possible that during the period of the 911 call, the wounded Jean was breathing under his power. In that case, CPR would not have helped, and it would not have been error or malice not to provide CPR.

    Indeed, at about three minutes into the 911 recording, one can hear an apparent moan from Jean, indicating that at least at that point, he was still breathing under his power.

    Similarly, Guyger’s verbalized concerns about losing her job indeed appear odd when heard on the 911 call, but has nothing to do with her decision making in firing the shot, which naturally occurred earlier. Also, it is common for people in the immediate aftermath of a deadly force event to act in a manner that seems odd when contrasted with normal day-to-day life.

    Perhaps if all Guyger had talked about during the 911 call was her job, her sole focus on that issue could come across as cold-hearted, self-centered, and perhaps an indication of malice on her part—and that could well be relevant to a murder prosecution.

    However, concern about her job constituted only a small part of what she verbalized during her call.

    Indeed, much of the 911 call strikes me as supportive of at least one of the critical issues in this case: Did Guyger’ genuinely, even if mistakenly, believe that she had come upon an intruder in her apartment?

    Here’s that 911 recording in its entirety (fair warning, there are a couple of expletives), followed by a transcript of the recording for those who prefer reading over listening:

    Operator:       Dallas 911. This is Carla. What is your emergency?

    Guyger:           Hi this is an off-duty officer. Umm, can I get, I need to get EMS, uhmm, I’m in nu–

    Operator:       Do you need police as well or just EMS?

    Guyger:           Yes. I need both.

    Operator:       OK. What’s the address?

    Guyger:           [Expletive] I’m at apartment number 1478. I’m in 1478.

    Operator:       And what’s the address there?

    Guyger:           Ummm it’s 1210 S. Lamar, 1478, yeah, I…

    Operator:       What’s going on?

    Guyger:           I’m an off duty officer. I thought I was in my apartment and I shot a guy thinking he was, thinking it was my apartment.

    Operator:       You shot someone?

    Guyger:           Yes. I thought it was my apartment. I’m [expletive]. Oh my god. I’m sorry.

    Operator:       Where are you at right now?

    Guyger:           I’m in. What do you mean? I’m inside the apartment with him. Hey, come on.

    Operator:       What’s your name?

    Guyger:           I’m Amber Guyger. I need, get me. I’m in.

    Operator:       OK we have help on the way.

    Guyger:           I know but I’m, I’m going to lose my job. I thought it was my apartment.

    Operator:       OK.

    Guyger:           Hey man.

    Operator:       Hold on.

    Guyger:           [Expletive]

    Operator:       OK. Stay with me. OK.

    Guyger:           I am. I am. I’m going to need a supervisor.

    Guyger:           Hey bud. Hey bud. Hey bud. Come on. Oh [expletive]. I thought it was my apartment. Operator: I understand. We have help on the way.

    Guyger:           I thought it was my apartment. Hurry. Please.

    Operator:       They’re on their way.

    Guyger:           I need. I. I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was apartment. I could have sworn I parked on the third floor.

    Operator:       OK. I understand.

    Guyger:           No. I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was my apartment.

    Operator:       And what’s the gate code there?

    Guyger:           I don’t know. I don’t know.

    Operator:       You don’t know? OK?

    Guyger:           I thought it was my apartment.

    Operator:       They’re trying to get in there. We have an officer there. You don’t know the gate code?

    Guyger:           No. I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was my apartment.

    Operator:       And what floor are you in right now?

    Guyger:           The fourth floor. Fourth. Fourth. Hey bud, they’re coming, they’re, I’m sorry, man.

    Operator:       Where was he shot?

    Guyger:           He’s on the top left.

    Operator:       OK you’re with Dallas PD right?

    Guyger:           Yes.

    Guyger:           Oh my god. I’m done. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry. Hey bud.

    Operator:       They’re trying to get there to you, OK.

    Guyger:           I know. I, I, stay with me bud.

    Guyger:           Holy [expletive]

    Operator:       OK. They’re almost there. They’re already there. They’re trying to get to you.

    Guyger:           Holy [expletive]. I thought it was my apartment. I thought it was my apartment. Holy [expletive]. I thought it was my apartment. Oh my god. [Expletive].

    Guyger:           I thought it was my apartment.

    Guyger:           I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. [Expletive]

    Guyger:           Holy [expletive].

    Guyger:          Oh my god.

    Operator:       OK, they’re trying to get to you. Do you hear them? Do you see them?

    Guyger:           No. No. Oh my god. I, I, How the [expletive] did I put the, how did, how did I [inaudible] I’m so tired.

    Guyger:           Oh they’re here. They’re here.

    Operator:       OK. Go ahead and talk to them.

    Arriving officer: [Inaudible]

    Guyger:           No, it’s me. I’m off duty. I’m off duty. I [expletive]. I thought it was my apartment. I thought this was my floor.

    Guyger indeed mentions during the 911 call that she’s concerned about losing her job.

    She mentions that once.

    In contrast, consider how many times she asserts that she (mistakenly) believed she had entered her apartment.

    She does so twenty times. In under six minutes.

    It’s also a misrepresentation to claim that Guyger appeared cold or uncaring or malicious towards Jean. Guyger sought to communicate with him in a comforting or encouraging or apologetic manner throughout the 911 call.

    She does so fourteen times.

    Further, she’s troubled about her grave error. There’s no indication of malice, other than the arguably weak extrapolation of her single stated concern about her job.

    My interpretation of this 911 recording is that it strongly corroborates the subjective prong of the reasonableness test. That is that Guyger had a genuine, good faith belief (however mistaken) that she encountered Jean in her apartment.

    As noted, that subjective belief alone is not enough to make her use-of-force lawful. That belief must also have been objectively reasonable.

    Making that determination is going to take a bunch of facts not known to us—for example, how similar were the apartments on the third floor (Guyger’s) and the fourth floor (Jean’s)? To what extent what Guyger’s misperception a function of her apparent exhaustion after a 12-hour shift, and to what degree is that exhaustion here, as opposed to her department’s, responsibility?

    That objective prong of the reasonableness case is likely to be, or at least ought to be, the critical issue in determining Guyger’s criminal responsibility in her killing of Jean.

    –Andrew

    Attorney Andrew F. Branca
    Law of Self Defense LLC
    Law of Self Defense CONSULT Program

    P.S. Wednesday, June 12 is the last day to take advantage of the Law of Self Defense FATHER’S DAY SALE, through which  you can get your Dad a free copy of the hardcover, autographed version of our best-selling book, “The Law of Self Defense, 3rd Ed.” and expect to receive it in time for this Sunday.  Click here for details.

    [Featured image is a police mugshot of Amber Guyger.]

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    Comments



     
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    vaccaro | June 12, 2019 at 10:39 am

    I would like to know what were the commands she gave that the victim did not comply with? What was the distance separating them, and did she have a reasonable fear that he was an immediate threat to her life, or would inflict great bodily harm? Unless she can answer these questions satisfactorily, the “wrong apartment” defense may save her from a murder charge, but not from a manslaughter conviction. On a side note, while I have great respect for the job performed by all LEO, and that they put their lives on the line every day, it seems that in recent years, some are too quick to fire their weapon, when there might be other ways to de-escalate and control a situation.

      I think it’s likely she freaked out and her “commands” may have sounded like, “POLICEGETONTHEGROUNDGETONTHEGROUND!!!!” Bang!

      It was dark in the apt…the poor guy probably had no idea what was going on…


     
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    rdmdawg | June 12, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Why was this guy up and around in a darkened apartment with the all the lights turned off… and the door ajar? I don’t think we’re getting the full story here.


       
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      euragone in reply to rdmdawg. | June 12, 2019 at 11:21 am

      I hope she gets a ‘Death’ Sentence! and She is apologizing to a man who was still alive and failed to render aid!

      ‘RDMDAWG’ ~ It doesn’t matter if the door was wide open and dark.. You still don’t have a right to just walk into a residence…The Full Story is DPD is covering for an officer… Laws for Thee but not for me….


         
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        Gremlin1974 in reply to euragone. | June 12, 2019 at 12:57 pm

        I am not justifying her shooting the guy, but there is no evidence that she failed to render aid. She could have been on the phone, reassuring him and applying pressure to the wound, which would be an appropriate response. We don’t know and there is no reason to jump to conclusions based on speculation.

        Like I said earlier everyone had George Zimmerman convicted and on death row (notable exception being this web site). Then the trial happened and when all the evidence came out the story was completely different than the narrative.

        One witness even testified that she saw Zimmerman on top of Martin and that she saw Zimmerman shoot Martin in the back. Granted she was obviously the mentally unstable crazy cat lady.


       
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      TheOldZombie in reply to rdmdawg. | June 12, 2019 at 11:26 am

      You’ve never walked through your place of living in the dark? Ever?

      You’ve never forgotten to lock the front door? Ever?

      You’ve never forgotten to close the front door all the way? Ever?

      It’s his apartment. He doesn’t have to have the lights on.


       
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      inspectorudy in reply to rdmdawg. | June 12, 2019 at 11:49 am

      Who are you to ask what a person does in their own home? He can walk around in the dark naked if he wants to, with the door ajar, and it violates no one’s rights. This is an awful case but anyone who carries a gun must not shoot at the first sign of trouble. All she had to do was to back out of the door and yell for the man to come out. Instead, she shoots a man in the shadows for no threatening reason. Like the idiot cop in MN who shot the Australian woman who had called the police to report a possible rape, she needs to go to jail.


     
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    buckeyeminuteman | June 12, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    I moved into a new apt building a few years ago and met my catty corner neighbor in a weird way. Front entrance had stairs at the right and left. There were three floors with four apartments/doors on each floor. I went up the other staircase than I usually did and in coming up the stairs turned to my right and inserted my key. Door wouldn’t unlock so I cranked it and banged a couple times. I then realized my error and turned around bolting for my own door. Just then he popped his head out with a puzzled look and saw my sheepish grin. Going to the wrong door is certainly an honest mistake. The events surrounding the shooting, I am not qualified to make a determination.


     
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    Cliff | June 12, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    I’ve been disappointed with this whole thing.

    TURN ON THE LIGHTS?? Ok, arriving at the wrong door is possible, but how long would it take to determine something is very wrong when all the furniture and interior decorating is incorrect?

    Then is the first response for a police officer with the responsibility to carry a loaded weapon to shoot someone that seems out of place? If Botham Jean had been in her apartment for some reason… apartment manager responding to a complaint??? Then shooting him would have just been an unfortunate misunderstanding?

    Shooting someone with the intent to kill should only be taken as a last resort. No wonder we have the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

    Oh, and when did she realize something was wrong? Did she determine something was amiss and choose not to turn on the lights for some silly reason? At that point she should have taken 2 steps back and called dispatch, keeping an open channel.

    Of course we are still missing drug tests on both people. There were reports of drug paraphernalia in Botham Jean’s apartment, but no reports on whether either or both individuals were intoxicated (which could lead to altered reality for either or both).

    And, wow, poor handling. Possible murder, and she is allowed to go home under her own recognizance, and clean her house? And, she is still out on bail on a murder charge?

    Then we get to the 911 call. The disturbing thing about the whole call is a complete lack of interest in administering first aid.

    Do DPD officers have first aid training? 911 operators?

    Start with the ABC’s. Airway, Breathing, Circulation, etc. The guy’s been shot. Obviously internal bleeding is difficult to deal with, but is there any external bleeding that can be controlled? How’s the pulse? Is he shot in the heart, lungs, muscle, etc? For lung wounds, seal the wound to keep air out??? Pressure, perhaps lots of pressure.

    And, obviously monitor for changes in condition.

    If she can’t do it alone, then recruit some neighbors to assist. Clean Towels? Something to “seal” the wound? There was a question about building access… perhaps send a runner to direct the first responders and make sure the doors are open with assistance getting to the apartment as quickly as possible. Garage access?

    He may well need a big bore IV very quickly… so be ready for that. Shirt off, access to the wound?

    Nope… The 911 call is all about worrying about whether or not she will be fired.

    One would think the first aid training for anybody carrying a gun with the intent to shoot people would be extensive, and specific to gunshot wounds. Perhaps part of 911 triage would be to have experts that can assist with those vital first moments.


       
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      Mac45 in reply to Cliff. | June 13, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      I agree with the first half of your post. The use of deadly force should be a last resort. And, it has been my experience that in the last 15 years, LEAs have been liberalizing the use of deadly force in their training. Another thing which is lacking today, which was taught in the late 1970s through the mid 1990s was movement. LEOs were trained to move away from a threat, either laterally or sometimes backwards. Now most training has reverted to that of the 1950s and 60s, standing flat-footed and shooting an potential threat.

      In this case, I do think that the defense will be able to show that the shooting was, in fact, strictly necessary.

      Now as to post shooting behavior, Guyger’s actions are not unusual. There is a lot of trauma involved in the use of force by a LEO. In the first pace, LE psychological testing weeds out people who are the least likely to suffer traumatic stress disorders. And, in an unexpected shooting situation, the confusion becomes even greater. People will tend to fall back on their last, best training. However, most LE training for shooting situations ends with the shooting. First aid is not stressed. And, most LE first aid training is little better than administering CPR and using direct pressure to stop bleeding. So, when you take into account fatigue, traumatic stress and adrenaline withdrawal confusion is natural.


         
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        Mac45 in reply to Mac45. | June 13, 2019 at 3:30 pm

        Edit: “In this case, I do think that the defense will be able to show that the shooting was, in fact, strictly necessary” should read “In this case, I do NOT think that the defense will be able to show that the shooting was, in fact, strictly necessary”.


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