Amber Guyger said she mistakenly walked into 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean's apartment and fired two shots
A Texas grand jury handed down a murder indictment Friday against a white former police officer who shot dead an unarmed black man in his apartment, which she allegedly mistook for her own.
Dallas police officer Amber Guyger told investigators she mistakenly walked into 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean's apartment, one floor above her own, when she returned home from work on the evening of September 6.
She fired two shots after seeing a silhouette of a figure who didn't respond to verbal commands, police said.
The 30-year-old initially was charged with manslaughter and later fired from the police force. Authorities said more charges were likely after an investigation was completed.
A grand jury returned a first-degree murder charge, which is punishable under Texas law by up to life in prison.
Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said that under Texas law, a murder charge deals with an intentional act whereas a manslaughter charge is reserved for reckless behavior that results in death.
"We thought that it was murder all along," Johnson told a news conference while declining to elaborate on the evidence.
She said a trial was likely a year away at the earliest.
Guyger turned herself in and was released on bond.
Relatives of Jean — an immigrant from the Caribbean nation of Saint Lucia — came to Dallas after the shooting and consistently demanded that Guyger be held accountable.
Family attorney Lee Merritt told a news conference that the murder charge was a rare example of a US police officer being charged with murder for violence against a black man.
"This is groundbreaking. But it is also just a start," Merritt said.
"We still realize that we have a very long way to go."
The Jean family stood by Merritt's side wearing pins with Botham's image and T-shirts that said "Be Like Bo" — a nickname for Botham.
Jean's mother Allison said her entire country "has been on alert with the expectation that the grand jury will have returned with an indictment of murder."
"I look forward to the next step, which is a conviction of murder of Amber Guyger. And more so of a penalty — the proper penalty — that will cause her to reflect on what she has done and the pain that she has caused."
Jean had been working at the accounting firm PwC, also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, in Dallas. He had emigrated from Saint Lucia to attend a private Christian college in the United States.
The shooting sparked protests and became emblematic of racially-charged police brutality controversies that blight the US.
"We are hurting deeply, but we take some comfort at this time with the decision that the grand jury reached," Jean's father Bertram said.
"We go back to our homeland with much grief."
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