City of Dallas Dismissed From Botham Jean Wrongful Death Civil Suit

Botham Jean speaks at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., on March 24, 2014. (Jeff Montgmery/Harding University via AP)

DALLAS (CN) – A federal judge dismissed the city of Dallas Thursday from a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of Botham Jean, leaving convicted murderer and former cop Amber Guyger as the sole defendant in the civil case.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn dismissed all of the family’s claims against the city with prejudice for failure to state a claim, according to the two-page order signed Dec. 23. The order was made public by the court Thursday afternoon.

Lynn had paused the civil case three months ago to accommodate the closely followed state criminal trial against Guyger that resulted in a murder conviction.

Guyger is currently serving a 10-year sentence in Texas state prison for killing Jean, 26, on Sept. 7, 2018, after mistaking his apartment for her own on a different floor. She entered the apartment through a door left ajar, then fired her service weapon into the dark at what she believed was an intruder inside. Guyger was in uniform, off duty and returning home from working her shift that day.

Jean’s parents, Bertrum and Allison Jean, of St. Lucia, filed their lawsuit one month after their son’s death and claim violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. In dismissing the lawsuit, Lynn accepted recommendations made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez four months ago that there were no police department policies concerning conduct of off-duty officers.

Ramirez rejected the Jeans’ argument that enough incidents involving off-duty Dallas police constituted a pattern of conduct that resulted in liability for the city. She concluded “those shootings are distinguishable” from this case, “do not establish a pattern,” and “are insufficient to show a custom or policy supporting municipal liability.”

The lawsuit claims Guyger called her attorney and 911 after shooting Jean in the chest.

“In an attempt to cover-up for shooting Jean, defendant Guyger allegedly made certain comments to Jean, knowing she was being recorded, who was then still suffering from the gunshot wound to his chest and in a great deal of pain,” the complaint states. “At no time did defendant Guyger attempt to render emergency aid to Jean or take any lifesaving measures. Jean was allowed to remain on the ground as he struggled to survive in extreme pain.”

The lawsuit claims the subsequent investigation by Dallas police was racked with “bias, partiality and a lack of thoroughness” to cover up Guyger’s actions. It claims detectives asked for warrants for Jean’s apartment “with the specific intent of discovering evidence of illegality” on his part to justify the shooting.

“Anonymous police sources offered to media that the physical evidence at the crime scene substantiated defendant Guyger’s version of events before conducting a thorough investigation,” the complaint states. “On the day of Jean’s memorial, media published a warrant affidavit DPD investigators failed to seal indicating drugs and drug paraphernalia was recovered from the home of the decedent, all designed to protect defendant Guyger.”

The Dallas city attorney’s office could not be reached for comment after office hours Thursday.

The family’s lawyer, Daryl Washington, disagreed with the magistrate judge’s conclusions, stating Guyger was “clearly on duty” during the shooting.

“The great majority of the evidence, and the presentation by Amber Guyger’s side, was that she was a police officer and that she acted as a police officer would behave,” he said in October.

Washington said it “becomes disheartening” when plaintiffs are not given “more leeway” in such cases where “cities are allowed to just basically kick police officers under the bus” as targets for litigation.

“By the way, the one that we trained, the one that we put on the street, the one that we issued a service revolver to,” he said.

The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal with Judge Lynn Friday morning, meaning they will appeal her ruling to the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

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