The Dallas Police Department and the city’s District Attorney’s Office refuse to release a slew of records that could help the public better understand what happened the night an officer shot and killed an unarmed black man, Botham Jean, in his apartment.
Those records include the 911 phone call officer Amber Guyger placed after she intruded into Jean’s home and fatally shot him, writes the Dallas Morning News, which requested the records.
As the News notes, the policy around releasing emergency calls varies by police department: Some departments will release 911 recordings shortly after the call has been made. In Guyger’s case, the District Attorney’s office is claiming that releasing the calls could compromise the investigation, and make it more difficult to get a trial in Dallas.
From the Dallas Morning News:
First Assistant District Attorney Mike Snipes said Tuesday that the office hoped holding back information such as the 911 calls would cut back on pre-trial publicity. Snipes, the top prosecutor under District Attorney Faith Johnson, said the office wants to try the case in Dallas and not have a judge move it elsewhere in the state on grounds that jurors here have already made up their minds.
Concern about having the trial moved elsewhere might seem reasonable, and it should be noted that Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson has had recent success in prosecuting cops. In August, Johnson convinced jurors to convict former officer Roy Oliver of murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
But the DA’s reasoning for denying the release of other records raises questions. As the News reports, it sought other documents that might paint a clearer picture of who Guyger is, the type of cop she was, and what her state of mind was the night of Sept. 6. The News sought:
Guyger’s personnel file, records related to her shooting of a man she said took her Taser during a struggle in 2017, Guyger’s clock-in and clock-out times the day of the shooting, Guyger’s annual salary, previous administrative leave with the department, other 911 calls about the shooting, Guyger’s work schedule, body camera and dash camera videos, and any off-duty jobs she was approved to work.
Guyger, in stories with conflicting details, says she had just gotten off her shift when she parked her car on the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment (he is her immediate upstairs neighbor) for her own. Upon entering the apartment (it’s still unclear how she did so), Guyger claims she mistook Jean for an intruder and, after issuing verbal commands, shot the 26-year-old St. Lucia native with her service weapon.
Those records were denied for myriad reasons, the News writes, including concern from Dallas PD that their release would mean “an unwanted invasion of personal privacy” and would be “highly intimate or embarrassing and of no legitimate concern to the public.”
Curious that they didn’t keep that same energy about what was found in Jean’s apartment. But then again, it’s much easier to smear a dead man.
The News says it also requested Guyger’s drug and alcohol test results from the night she killed Jean—which the paper notes typically aren’t released to the public, though they may be used in court and civil trials.