Amber Guyger joked about a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, a racist dog, and black officers in text messages, and she posted a graphic on Pinterest that referred to shooting people, according to evidence that prosecutors presented during the penalty phase of Guyger’s prosecution. You can see the posts and texts later in this article.
Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison on October 2. She faced 5 years to 99 years.
Prosecutors tried two tactics during the sentencing for Guyger, a former Dallas police officer who was convicted of shooting a Saint Lucian businessman, Botham Shem Jean, who was in his own apartment at the time. They presented emotional testimony from Jean’s family members to underscore the deep loss, and they attacked Guyger’s character through the social media posts and text messages.
Guyger had just returned to the apartment complex from working overtime on the force and claimed she mistakenly thought Jean’s apartment was her own. She alleged she opened fire on the unarmed Jean because she feared he was an intruder. They didn’t know each other.
Prosecutors argued that any fears were unreasonable and she should have known she was at the wrong apartment, in part because Jean had a bright red rug outside his door and she did not. The jury sided with the prosecution, convicting Guyger of murder and rejecting a lesser charge of manslaughter and a Castle Doctrine defense, which the judge allowed them to consider.
Enter the sentencing phase, in which the prosecution went after Guyger’s character and the defense will get an opportunity to present witnesses on her side. Key to the prosecution’s case at sentencing: Guyger’s texts and social media posts. For his part, her lawyer asked the jury to judge her life in totality. He presented LaWanda Clark, who is black, as a character witness for Guyger. Guyger had ticketed Clark during a drug arrest but then helped her kick addiction and even attended her graduation ceremony from a drug treatment program.
Botham Shem Jean, a recent college graduate known for his leadership and singing voice in church, was originally from the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia, and, according to their Facebook comments and tributes, he was the pride of his family, a young man who came to America to study accounting and for whom great things were expected. Guyger is white and Jean was black, bringing a racial overlay into the case.
Here’s what you need to know:
Guyger Wrote Jokes About a Martin Luther King Jr. Parade & Said She Wanted a Racist Dog, Prosecutors Say
Prosecutors presented text messages that referred to Guyger working at the MLK Jr. parade. Some of Guyger’s text messages were deleted (previously, at trial, prosecutors revealed she was sexting her then police partner the night of Jean’s death. In those texts, she wrote “Super horny today too,” to then-partner Martin Rivera. “Me too,” Rivera texted back.)
However, prosecutors focused in the sentencing phase on other texts – including those about the MLK Jr. parade.
“When does this end lol,” someone asked via text message.
Guyger responded, according to prosecutors: “When MLK is dead… oh wait…” The other person wrote: “HA.” Guyger then responded, “Geez 2.5 hours going on 3 hours of this…” And later: “Just push them or spray with your pepper spray in that general area.”
In another text string, there was discussion about a dog. An officer stated the dog “may be racist.”
Guyger responded, according to prosecutors: “I wish I could have one but not in this apartment :( smaller than my old one.” And then: “It’s okay…I’m the same.”
She also wrote: “I hate everything and everyone but y’all.”
Her former partner, with whom she was having a relationship, wrote in another text thread, “Damn I was at this area with 5 different black officers!!! Not racist but damn.”
Guyger responded: “Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows.”
Guyger also shared graphics on Pinterest that referred to shooting and killing.
On Pinterest, she shared things like “stay low, go fast, kill first, die last. One shot, one kill. No luck, all skill.” She captioned it Navy SEALS.
And: “I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me, because I’m already dressed for your funeral.”
Guyger wrote this message under the post.
And: “People are so ungrateful. No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.”
She captioned the above post, “Grateful minion” and saved it to a board called love to laugh.
Botham Jean’s Family Discussed Their Pain & His Personality
A lot of the other testimony presented by the state was human and emotional, including from Jean’s mother and Alissa Findley, Jean’s sister, who told the judge how the death affected the family.
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, runs the Saint Lucia national Utilities Regulatory Commission. She testified that her son would have been 28 just that past Sunday. She said that he placed 23rd on the entire island growing up so he was accepted into the top high school on Saint Lucia. “He was very active. He was president of his schoolhouse. He was also the leader for several clubs…He started a choir because he loved to sing,” she said.
“I always referred to him as the glue of my three kids,” she said. “…He was always giving advice…” After high school, Jean went to college and worked at a manufacturing company in Saint Lucia at first. However, his desire was to study accounting. “Botham was a very headstrong child,” and he wanted to go to college in Arkansas because it was a Christian University so he could continue his singing there, his mother said.
“He was good with math, good with accounting,” Allison Jean said. He was very active in college, including on the Harding University rugby team. He brought fellow students back to the island to help at-risk boys on mission trips.
Findley talked about how close her children were to Jean. Her son is “scared of police officers,” she said. He came running to the car once solely because he saw a police officer after Jean’s death. Jean would sing with one of her sons and the other would wear his clothes. She treated him like another son. He was a song leader in the church. A video of Jean singing in church was played.
“I want my brother back,” she said. “If I could just continue our last conversation and not let him hang up the phone.”
The state called witnesses to testify to Jean’s future. The man they called “Bo” was a source of comfort and support at work, said Kerry Ray, Botham Jean’s coach at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He was described as a perfectionist who had a bright future. “Whatever he wanted to do in the long term, he was going to be excellent at it. His potential was unlimited. He could write his own check, I think,” said Ray.
READ NEXT: The Life of Botham Shem Jean.