DALLAS (ABC News) – Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was sentenced on Wednesday to serve 10 years in prison for the fatal 2018 killing of an innocent man she shot when she mistakenly entered his apartment believing it was her own.
The Dallas County jury reached a unanimous decision on the sentence just before 4 p.m. Central Standard Time, after deliberating for a a little over an hour.
Judge Tammy Kemp ordered Guyger and her attorney’s to stand as she read the jury’s decision on sentencing.
Earlier in the day, the panel heard tearful victim impact statements from family members and friends of the victim, Botham Jean, and Guyger’s relatives and former colleagues in the Dallas Police Department.
The sentencing phase came a day after the jury rejected Guyger’s self-defense claims and convicted her of murder in the fatal shooting of Jean, 26, an innocent man eating ice cream in his own home just before he was killed on Sept. 6, 2018.
The 12-member jury reached its unanimous guilty verdict after deliberating for less than two days.
Guyger, who was fired from her job as a Dallas police officer in the wake of the shooting, had faced a maximum sentence of five to 99 years in prison.
Before the jury began deciding Guyger’s punishment, Dallas County Assistant District Attorney LaQuita Long suggested to the panel that the sentence should not be lower than 28 years, noting that Jean would have turned 28 this past Sunday.
“The only reason we all sit in this courtroom today is because of her actions,” said Long, pointing to Guyger seated at the defense table. “And for her actions, there must be consequences.”
She left the jury with a quote to mull over from the eulogy Botham Jean’s minister gave at his funeral: “To the defendant, he was just a silhouette in a room. To EVERYONE who knew Bo, he was the brightest light in the room.”
Guyger’s defense lawyer Toby Shook asked the jury for mercy, pleading with them not to give Guyger a sentence meant for someone who kills out of “hate, for self-gain, who does so without remorse.”
He said Guyger is incredibly remorseful and that she made a series of “horrible mistakes” that caused her to “pull that trigger in an instant, an instant she’ll have to live with the rest of her life.”
After being found guilty, the 31-year-old Guyger was immediately taken to jail and spent Tuesday night in custody. She was in handcuffs and leg irons when guards escorted her into court on Wednesday morning.
Dallas County District Court Judge Tammy Kemp granted a request from Guyger’s defense team that the restraints be removed while Guyger was in court.
Earlier Wednesday, Jean’s father, Bertrum Jean, broke down in tears on the witness stand as he spoke of his son. He said how much he missed the conversations on the phone that they shared every Sunday.
“Sundays are not a good day for me because I’m not hearing his voice,” he said.
Bertrum Jean said his son’s death has traumatized his family. Showing him a photo of him hugging his wife on the day of their son’s funeral, Long asked him to describe what was going through his mind when the photo was taken.
“How could that happen to us, our family?” said Bertrum Jean, his voice choking with emotion. “How could we have lost Botham — such a sweet boy. He tried his best to live a good, honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone. How could this happen to him?”
“How could it be possible?” he continued, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief. “I’ll never see him again.”
On Tuesday, Bertrum Jean’s wife, Allison Jean, testified, saying, “My life has not been the same. It’s just been like a roller coaster.”
Guyger’s mother, Karen Guyger, also addressed the jury, describing her daughter as a “sweet and loving” child who always worries about her.
Karen Guyger revealed that her former boyfriend molested Guyger when she was around 6 years old. Despite the childhood trauma, she said her daughter continued to work hard at school and even took up the violin and joined a mariachi band in high school.
She said Guyger worked full-time jobs starting from the age of 16 to support herself through high school and college at the University of Texas at Arlington. She said her daughter’s childhood dream was to become a police officer, and that she joined the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in high school and went on ride-alongs with the Arlington, Texas, Police Department.
The mother said Guyger left college her junior year when she was accepted into the police academy in Dallas.
“She was so excited when she found out,” Karen Guyger said.
The mother said that Guyger’s bubbly personality dramatically changed after she killed Jean.
“She wanted to take his place. She’d always tell me she wished she could have taken his place. She feels very bad about it,” the mother said.
Guyger’s sister, Alana Guyger, 37, echoed their mother when she took the witness stand.
“She’s doesn’t have that same light or energy that she had before,” Alana Guyger said. “She’s expressed to me how she feels bad spending time with her family because he (Jean) can’t spend time with his.”
Several of Guyger’s former colleagues with the Dallas Police Department also testified, describing her as an outstanding police officer who always had their back. Several of her friends also testified that Guyger was always supportive and the first one they turned to when they needed help through a rough patch.
Guyger did not testify during the sentencing phase.But on Tuesday and Wednesday, prosecutors showed the jury numerous text messages and social media posts in which Guyger shared racists and violent views, or chimed in on equally offensive memes.
Under one meme reading “I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me, because I’m already dressed for your funeral,” Guyger allegedly commented, “yah i got meh a gun a shovel an gloves if i were u back da f— up.”
In a text exchange with police colleagues from Jan. 15, 2018, Guyger, who had been assigned to crowd control at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Dallas, answered a colleague who wrote, “When does this end lol.” Guyger allegedly wrote, “When MLK is dead… oh wait…” She later texted about the parade crowd, writing, “Just push them… or spray your pepper spray in that general area.”
After one of Guyger’s former colleagues, Officer Thomas MacPherson, vouched for Guyger’s good character, Long asked him if he was aware of her text about pepper spraying parade-goers.
“That would be out of character,” MacPherson answered.
(This story was originally published on October 2, 2019)