The newly elected Dallas County district attorney believes that former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger got off easy with a manslaughter charge in the September shooting death of PwC associate Botham Jean (pictured above).
“I don’t know any police reports. I don’t know any forensic reports, but based on what I have seen, manslaughter is an inappropriate charge, based on the circumstances as I understand them,” District Attorney-elect John Creuzot told the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Once I get in there and I get everything in front of me and it appears the most appropriate charge is murder, then that’s the charge we will go forward with.”
He added that anything less than a murder charge deviates from Dallas County precedent.
In late August, Roy Oliver II, a former police officer in Balch Springs, a city in Dallas County, was charged and convicted of murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black high school freshman in April 2017. Oliver is white.
“[Police officers] need to be held accountable like everyone else,” said Creuzot, a retired judge. “99.9 percent of our police officers are great people and doing it for the right reason, but there are going to be those individuals out there who are going to shoot and hurt and kill someone, and they need to be held accountable just like you and I would be held accountable.”
He said if the case against Guyger hasn’t gone through the legal system before he takes office, he will take a closer look, and his office will have the authority to upgrade the charge to murder.
Creuzot, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Faith Johnson, a Republican, on Nov. 6. Creuzot will take over as Dallas County district attorney on Jan. 1, 2019.
While Johnson was lauded for the conviction and sentencing of Oliver, she’s been criticized for her handling of the high-profile shooting of Jean. The 26-year-old risk assurance associate in PwC’s Dallas office was fatally shot in his South Side Flats apartment by Guyger on Sept. 6 after she had finished a 15-hour shift and believed she had entered her apartment, not his. She thought her apartment was being burglarized.
Guyger was arrested and charged with manslaughter on Sept. 9. She was released on $300,000 bond.
The Dallas Police Department fired Guyger on Sept. 24 for engaging in adverse conduct. She had worked at the department for nearly five years.
Critics have come after law enforcement and Johnson for allowing Guyger to remain free for nearly three days after the shooting before being arrested, never searching Guyger’s apartment despite search warrants being issued, and not releasing Guyger’s 911 call following the shooting to the public, among other things.
Jean’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Dallas and Guyger on Oct. 26, claiming that Guyger used excessive force and violated Jean’s constitutional and civil rights, and that the city failed to implement and enforce policies, practices, and procedures for the Dallas Police Department that respected Jean’s constitutional rights.
The lawsuit says that Guyger was “ill-trained” and “defaulted to the defective DPD policy: to use deadly force even when there exist no immediate threat of harm to themselves or others.”
Johnson said she wants to present Guyger’s case to a grand jury before she leaves office, and according to the CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, she expects that to happen “very soon.”
Following her Election Night loss, Johnson released the following statement regarding the Guyger case:
“I am proud of the work that my team and I have done to prepare the Amber Guyger case for presentation to the grand jury. In vigorous pursuit of justice for Botham Shem Jean and his family, we have worked tirelessly gathering evidence, conducting forensic testing, and interviewing more than 200 witnesses for our own independent investigation. As I have stated from the beginning, my team will present to the grand jury all of the evidence gathered during both our independent investigation and the Texas Rangers’ investigation. Further, we will explain all of the applicable laws so that the grand jury will have all the evidence they need to make the right decision. It is my sincere hope that if the grand jury true bills the Amber Guyger case, Judge Cruezot will continue my work to vigorously seek justice for Botham Shem Jean, his family, and the residents of Dallas County.”
If the case goes to a grand jury before he takes the reigns of the district attorney’s office, Creuzot said he’ll support Johnson’s decision.
“She’s the district attorney until she’s not,” he said. “If she wants to take it to the grand jury between now and the first of the year, I support her decision on that.”