The Courtroom Hugs Given To Convicted Murderer Amber Guyger Are Emblematic Of The Sympathy That Dallas Cops Feel They Are Rightly Owed. How Systemic!
Fuck the police.
Following the spectacle and theatrics, the posturing and gesturing claiming to be prosecution and trial of ex-cop Amber Guyger, something equally accosting has to be said to counter the cartoon mob-style handling of this case by Dallas Police and Texas law enforcement agencies, to deflect the restructuring of the narrative from its R-rated reality to the many, disinfected reenactments we’ve heard since the shots she fired at Botham Jean first rang out.
From their initial fumbling and unintelligible public roll-out of the events as they allegedly occurred to the live-streamed season finale of the summer’s most talked-about Internet drama, an equal and opposite response is appropriate — and, yes, it’s simple as the quote Ice Cube shared way back in 1988: Fuck the police.
This isn’t an emotional response. These are facts not unfamiliar to those long aware and enraged by the decades-long endemic of the Dallas Police Department’s impunity.
A Tradition of Violence.
In 1973, 12-year old Santos Rodriguez and his 13-year old brother David sat barefoot and handcuffed in the passenger and rear passenger seats of a Dallas Police squad car, abducted from their home at 2:30 in the morning by officers Darrell Cain and Roy Arnold, and accused of robbing a Fina gas station. In an attempt to get them to confess to a crime they insisted they didn’t commit, Cain sought to intimidate the boys with a game of Russian Roulette — a game that killed Santos Rodriguez, sending a bullet through his head. Cain claimed it was an accident, arguing that he’d removed the bullets from his gun prior to the shooting. When questioned as to why, contrary to his account, Cain’s .357 Magnum revolver was found to have had five bullets in it upon investigation, the officer claimed to have been able to soundly and mindfully reload his weapon while hysterically crying and vomiting in immediate response to its accidental discharge. The jury found Darrell Cain guilty of murder — then sentenced him to five years in prison, of which he only served two before being released.
In 2017, officer Roy Oliver became the first Dallas cop since Darrell Cain to be convicted of an on-duty murder. Responding to a disturbance call and claims of underage drinking, Oliver and his partner Tyler Gross arrived at a Balch Springs house party and claimed to have heard gunshots outside. A 15-year old named Jordan Edwards sat in the passenger seat of a car with four other boys and was leaving the party when Oliver fired his high-caliber rifle five times into the car carrying Edwards, his brother and friends. Jordan Edwards was killed instantly, and Oliver was charged with, tried and convicted of murder. He was ultimately sentenced to a meager 15 years in prison.
Like her predecessors, and per Dallas PD tradition for officer-involved fatalities, the case and prosecution of Amber Guyger — the fired police officer found guilty of Botham Jean’s murder last week — was a total miscarriage of justice. It was a deliberate mishandling of the law, a nationally televised play-by-play of how Dallas police — and police departments nationwide — conspire and contrive to elude accountability and, even in the rare instance of prosecution, are never fully subject to the same laws they are sworn to enforce.
The investigation was a farce, from the local police and Texas Rangers’ immediate and routine attempted smear campaign against the dead in which they reported finding a small amount of marijuana in Jean’s apartment — a racist dog whistle with origins dating back to “reefer madness” — to the gag order enforced pre-trial that prevented on-the-record answers regarding parts of the story not carefully choreographed in the courtroom. Guyger’s due process was preferential, unprofessional and, on many occasions, unlawful.
Following the 10 p.m. September 6, 2018, shooting at the Cedars neighborhood’s South Side Flats apartments, more grace was extended to a murder suspect I can recall, short of the post-massacre, police-chaperoned Dylan Roof upgrading from a sandwich to a meal in a Burger King drive-through. A search warrant was issued for the victim’s apartment, but Guyger’s apartment was never searched. Details of the police’s findings in the murdered man’s apartment — including, if not especially, that irrelevant and inconsequential weed stash — were made public the day of Botham Jean’s funeral, a clear stab at the character of the deceased. The murderer’s arrest warrant came nearly four days later, after she’d been placed on administrative leave by the department. She turned herself in, bonded out and quickly went off the grid.
A Tale Of Two Warrants.
The author of Guyger’s arrest warrant affidavit painted a benign picture of the events leading to the shooting.
According to its statements, Guyger inserted her door key, which was digitally configured to unlock only her apartment door directly below Jean’s, into Jean’s apartment door that was slightly ajar, “so the force of inserting the key pushed it open.” The affidavit also made a point to state that the interior floor plans of the building are in most ways identical or extremely similar, strengthening Guyger’s spin.
Meanwhile, Jean is described as a large silhouette, another age-old example of coded language used by police and media to demonize and dehumanize black men. In the search warrant of Jean’s apartment, he is described as confronting Guyger at the door; in the affidavit and throughout her testimonies, the story changes, allowing Guyger to enter the apartment and find Jean in the living room, where she then opened fire.
Also alleged in those affidavits: Guyger gave verbal commands that went ignored, and she fired twice and “Jean was struck once in the torso,” after which she called 911 and began administering first aid. But that is completely contrary to witness statements: Courtroom testimonies and the lone video recording of the immediate aftermath of the killing both indicate that this documented timeline of events are simply untrue. There wasn’t a drop of (literal) blood on Guyger’s hands at the time of her backup and paramedics’ arrival — a tell that would prove she attempted to provide aid, as claimed by both the affidavit and in sworn statements from Guyger. Furthermore, the “verbal commands” that both the killer cop swore making and the Texas Rangers repeatedly brandished across documents went unanimously unaccounted for by witnesses, neighbors and passersby.
Eyes To See, Ears To Hear.
A key witness in the Amber Guyger trial, a man named Joshua Brown, testified that Botham Jean – who lived in a neighboring apartment directly across from Brown’s — loved to sing in the morning, citing gospel and Drake as Jean’s most frequent and favorite music. Brown could hear Jean singing everyday and, on the night of his murder, he heard no verbal commands before the deafening gunshots that killed his neighbor. The only known video depicting Amber Guyger moments after killing Botham Jean shows the officer pacing frantically back and forth outside his doorway. Additional witnesses who wished to remain anonymous also contend that there was no accidental entry or faulty lock that Guygess’ defense and official police statements describe, but rather audible banging and shouts of “Let me in!” moments before Jean’s slaying.
Brown and the other witnesses have suffered consequences since publicly exposing the faults in Dallas Police Department’s sympathetic handling of the Guyger investigation.
In late January, independent news channel African Diaspora News Channel posted a video on YouTube where host Phillip Scott interviewed a woman operating under the alias of Bunny, who says she shot the post-shooting Guyger reaction video. Following her video’s removal from Instagram and Facebook for violating community guidelines, Bunny says she was harassed, was fired from her job, received death threats and labeled a Black Identity Extremist. She also speaks to being visited — more or less monitored — by not only Dallas Police and the Texas Rangers, but the District Attorney’s office, and two suits who claimed to be the Feds but refused to state which branch
Just 10 days after his own emotional testimonial of having only officially first met his joyfully noisy neighbor mere hours before he was gunned down (and only two days removed from Guyger’s sentencing), Brown was killed in the parking lot of the apartments he currently lived in, five miles from where his once-neighbor was murdered a year earlier. He suffered at least two gunshot wounds — one in the mouth and the other in the chest. For almost an entire day, Dallas Police refused to confirm Brown’s identity as the victim.
Sgt. Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, has swiftly denied any notion that Brown’s death came in retaliation for his role as a “star witness” in the trial of Amber Guyger.
Although she lived in Dallas and the crime was committed there, Guyger was allowed to be booked in Kaufman, a smaller county east of Dallas with a population makeup that is 28 percent more white than Dallas County, on the Sunday night following the shooting — a full three days after the fact. She was initially charged with manslaughter — a lighter charge that assumes reckless behavior led to an unintended death — with bail set at $300,000. She posted bond that same evening and returned home within an hour.
After being released from Kaufman, Guyger went off the grid. A little over a week after the incident, an email was sent out to the residents of South Side Flats, informing them that Amber Guyger was no longer a tenant. Her apartment had been vacated and wiped clean. Where she relocated to is unknown.
It is important to note here that Guyger’s bond payment, legal fees and stipends were provided throughout the investigation and trial by the Dallas Police Association, a union that serves the needs and interests of the officers first. It was also that association’s president, the aforementioned Mata, who arrived to the crime scene the night of the killing and deactivated his squad car’s dash cam as he consoled a panicking, inconsolable Guyger in the backseat, allegedly making calls to her (read: their) attorney. When Tammy Kemp was assigned as the presiding judge in the Guyger trial, it was noted not nearly widely enough that Kemp had as recently as February received endorsements and campaign contributions from the Dallas Police Association.
As for Guyger, it wasn’t until November 30, almost three months past the night of the crime, that she was seen again — this time to be charged with murder by a grand jury. Again, she eluded Dallas County in the aftermath, turning herself in at a Mesquite jail, where she booked in and bonded out within the same night.
The obsessive and excessive cradling of Guyger’s public image continued throughout the investigation and into trial.
At Last, A Trial? At Least, A Trial.
By the time we finally arrived at the trial, more than a calendar year later after Jean’s murder, the stage had been set.
Evidence presented from text and Snapchat conversations painted a prime-time network TV affair between Guyger and her married partner on the force, Martin Rivera. In the courtroom and in the public, this was enough to shake up the overworked and fatigued damsel cop narrative already set in the public subconscious — but, even in all its soft-core lasciviousness, it was a mere fraction of the obtainable evidence against her character. After a myriad of texts, call logs and social media posts had been deleted and deemed irretrievable, Guyger still managed to leave behind a trail of diet racist opinions of her black counterparts and some Pinterest bookmarks that were likely shared by the type of folk who wear wildlife fatigues for no reason and Oakley shades on the back of their heads — y’know, real red-hat stuff.
Still, she played for sympathy using guilty white women’s favorite fail-proof currency: slobbering, barely decipherable moan-mumbling through blubbering tears. While rationalizing the confusion that led to her murdering Jean, the remorsefully-posed Guyger suggested that, in retrospect, she wish that he had, in fact, killed her and not the other way around. (It doesn’t take an anthropologist to see that even the suggestion of Jean as Guyger’s would-be murderer evokes the irrational fear of black men’s mythical propensity to violence, especially towards white women – propaganda introduced, substantiated and sustained by early and present-day media to objectively become a cornerstone of the American racial subconscious.)
This dog-and-pony show continued from there. After two weeks of presentation and testimonial, the jury was tasked with providing a verdict for ex-officer Amber Guyger. Judge Kemp deemed it necessary at this point to remind jurors that they had the option of utilizing the castle doctrine (a defense that justifies the shooting or resulting killing of a perceived threat in one’s own home, even though the whole point was it wasn’t Guyger’s home) as well as pursuing a lesser charge of manslaughter.
When it was announced that Guyger was found guilty of murder, there was almost a rejoicing in the streets. That sense of relief was short-lived.
The Hugs Heard Round The World.
Once the trial reached its sentencing phase, the narrative had become so misconstrued that Guyger was being treated in the courtroom as if she were the victim.
Even at the announcement of her 10-year prison sentence, a sheriff’s deputy could be seen at a disheveled Guyger’s side, stroking her blonde hair, finger combing it the way schoolgirls fidget with their prettier, more popular friends.
In an emotional perfect storm that felt crafted to neatly counter aggravated public opposition to Guyger’s wrist-slap sentencing, the slain Jean’s younger brother Brandt took the stand and spoke candidly to his brother’s murderer, professing forgiveness for the coddled killer. Then, he rose from the stand and open-arm embraced the business-casually dressed, untangled blonde tresses of the un-cuffed, convicted murderer. Emotions swelled in the courtroom as a tidal of tears swept everyone present.
That was not the only hug Guyger would receive on the day of her sentencing. Like Brandt Jean before her, Judge Kemp — visibly stirred at various points throughout the two-week long proceedings — similarly descended from her bench, her personal bible in tow, and approached the defense table. Then she too embraced the ex-officer, and began an exchange of words in which Kemp offered religious aphorisms and a prompt for Guyger to pursue Christ in her time spent incarcerated. Finally, Kemp gifted Guyger her personal bible in a gesture that, within and without the context of Guyger’s preferential process, is questionable and controversial.
A group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who among their purposes are to maintain the separation of Church and State, promptly filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, citing Kemp’s actions as inappropriate and unconstitutional. It’s a valid argument to make, although the accusation that Kemp was forcefully imposing faith-based ideas in a religiously sterile government setting is merely an echo of the larger and more nuanced discovery — that, at every level of this case on through its sentencing, the law acted in the favor and best interest of Guyger, simply feigning due process in the wake of her unwarranted, unlawful and still-unsubstantiated execution of an unarmed man in his own home.
Since the conviction, less has been said about the sentencing than the spectacle that surrounded it. As with everything nowadays, there remains a binary of perspectives regarding the suspect circumstances that comprised the events leading up to the trial. But most speculation has been set on the two hugs — quite possibly the first double-hug in the history of murder trials.
Was the hug unprofessional? An extension of the grace and compassion shown to the killer cop throughout this case? Was it a rare demonstration of humanity in a case that, even in its aftermath, showed so little of it?
For her part, Judge Kemp has since doubled down on her actions, saying that her only regret was that Guyger had to ask twice for her embrace.
Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall, on the other hand, has mentioned launching an internal investigation after revelations made during the Guyger trial — but since she doesn’t exactly have a great record of truth-telling about those, please forgive us for wanting to “yeah, yeah” such chatter.
This much we know: Amber Guyger is in jail, for now. After being given a 10-year sentence by the jury, she will be locked up for five of those years at minimum. That’s not much time — but it’s somewhat par for course. The indictments of Dallas officers in fatalities may be something of a rarity, but even rarer is the conviction and sentencing of an officer equal to the punishment given when similar laws are broken by civilians — and citizens of color in particular.
The Guyger case is simply the latest example of this truth.
Even so, despite its track record of violent incidents, DPD long has been quick to once again blame the public’s perception and attitude towards police, using deception and even attempting to reverse accountability when they’re at fault.
We’ve seen this practice employed not only by Dallas Police but in other high-profile killings by cops nationwide. Dallas is unique, though, in the fact that its systemic selective sympathy is so far out of bounds that evasion of justice and exemption from accountability are crowned here not just with a slap on the wrist but also a warm embrace.
Something like Southern hospitality, I guess.