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(DALLAS NEWS) — Dallas police officers now have body cameras, but Officer Amber Guyger wasn’t wearing one the night she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean in his own apartment.
Unlike with other police equipment, Dallas officers don’t take their body cameras home. At the end of each shift, officers are required to dock the body cameras so video can be downloaded, according to the Dallas Police Department’s general orders.
Guyger, who was still in uniform after work, pulled into the South Side Flats around 10 p.m. Sept. 6. She said she parked on the wrong floor of the parking garage and walked onto the fourth floor, rather than the third, where she lived. She entered Jean’s apartment, which was directly above hers, and said she mistook Jean for a burglar.
The Jean family’s attorneys have cast doubt on Guyger’s account that she had made a series of unintentional mistakes.
Three days after the shooting, Guyger was charged with manslaughter and turned herself into the Kaufman County Jail. She was freed the same night on $300,000 bail and was later fired.
The Dallas Morning News and other media outlets have requested any body camera and dash-camera video from responding officers the night of the shooting. Officials have asked the Texas attorney general for permission to withhold those records, as well as the audio recording of the 911 call Guyger made after shooting Jean.
Body cameras are relatively new, but have been already been crucial in some trials. Body camera footage was used as evidence in former Balch Springs Officer Roy Oliver’s trial in August. A Dallas County jury convicted Oliver of murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
In Dallas, the push for body cameras began in 2013 under then-Chief David Brown after then-Officer Cardan Spencer shot a mentally ill man, who was holding a knife, in a Rylie cul-de-sac. The man was standing still, but Spencer’s partner had initially told investigators that the man had stepped toward them with the knife raised. A neighbor’s surveillance camera showed the man was standing still. Spencer was fired and later pleaded guilty to attempted deadly conduct.
About half of the departments 1,900 patrol officers wear body cameras now, but Chief U. Renee Hall has said it’s her goal to have all officers equipped with the cameras by next year.
Officers wearing body cameras are required to activate them whenever they arrive at a call for service and before any enforcement stops, according to the general orders.
Normally, body camera footage is only stored for 90 days before it’s deleted, but the general orders require supervisors to mark footage of critical incidents — including officer-involved shootings — so it can be retained for longer.
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