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Funeral Held For Botham Jean


Funeral services were held today outside Dallas for 26-year-old Botham Jean. Jean was shot dead in his apartment by Amber Guyger, an off-duty Dallas police officer. Guyger says she entered by mistake, believing Jean's apartment was hers. The killing of an innocent black man in his own apartment by a white police officer has drawn worldwide attention.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn joins us from Dallas. And, Wade, walk us through exactly what happened here.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: So it happened last Thursday. Amber Guyger came home around 10 after a shift. She's still dressed her in uniform. She's 30, has been an officer for four years. And although her apartment's on the third floor, that night she parked on the fourth. She said this was simply a mistake and that the apartments all kind of look alike. So she walks down the hall to Jean's apartment. And from that point, we really don't know what happened.

One version of her story detailed in a DPD search warrant says she tried to use her key fob at Jean's door, and then Jean opened up and she shot him. In the Texas Rangers' arrest warrant, Guyger story's different. She says Jean's door was slightly ajar when she tried her key fob, and then it pushed open. She moves into the apartment's entryway, sees Jean in silhouette, pulls her service revolver, yells out a command and shoots him in the chest. She then turns on the light, realizes it's not her apartment and dials 911.

SHAPIRO: Those are a couple of the accounts. But then there's also physical evidence that raises some questions.

GOODWYN: There is. Jean's apartment has a large red doormat in front of his door. He put it there so visitors could specifically identify his apartment. And I've seen pictures of this. And that mat is big, bright red half-circle in a well-lit interior hallway. I mean, you can't miss it. And lawyers for Jean's family says Guyger's first glimpse of this mat should have stopped her, you know, in her tracks. Oops, I'm on the wrong floor. But it didn't. Why not? And the other evidence comes from Jean's neighbors, who've told the family's attorneys they heard the officer banging on Jean's door and yelling, let me in. So that's in contradiction with Guyger's story.

SHAPIRO: There have been complaints that Officer Guyger has been charged with manslaughter, not murder. Tell us about that.

GOODWYN: Yeah. The legal definition of manslaughter in Texas is to, quote, "recklessly cause the death of an individual." To put it in lay terms, you knew what you were doing was irresponsible and dangerous, but you did it anyway and killed somebody. Now, murder is when you intend to kill someone. And according to the officer's own account, she drew her weapon and deliberately shot Jean in the chest. Now, the Dallas district attorney has publicly indicated she'll bring charges as she sees fit. So, you know, it's a developing situation.

SHAPIRO: And this is a racially charged case in a city where both the Dallas police chief and Dallas district attorney are African-American women. Is that affecting how the black community in Dallas is reacting to this?

GOODWYN: The answer is yes, but in the larger context that people are really mad because this case further emphasizes the question, is there nowhere that a black person is safe from being killed by a police officer? Nevertheless, lawyers for Jean's family say they believe that the Dallas district attorney, Faith Johnson, is going to do the right thing. Two weeks ago, she won a murder conviction against a North Texas police officer who'd killed an unarmed 15-year-old named Jordan Edwards. And murder convictions against on-duty police officers are very rare. Here's Benjamin Crump, Jean's family's lawyer.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: The African-American prosecutor really made a concerted effort to let the community know they're actually going to walk the walk and they're going to hold everybody accountable and there's going to be equal justice for all of the citizens of Dallas County. So that gives us hope.

GOODWYN: Ari, so that's where we are in the middle of this investigation. And once again, all eyes are on Faith Johnson, the Dallas DA.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.