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Ex-Police Officer Charged With Murder in Shooting Unarmed Neighbor

FILE - Demonstrators march in Arlington, Texas, Sept. 16, 2018, to protest the recent killings of two black men by police: Botham Jean and O'Shae Terry. On Friday, Amber Guyger, a former police officer, was charged with murder in the shooting death of Jean.

A former police officer in Dallas, in the southwestern U.S. state of Texas, was charged Friday with murder in the shooting death of her unarmed black neighbor.

Amber Guyger, the police officer, said she entered Botham Jean’s apartment thinking it was hers. Jean lived on the fourth floor of the apartment complex, while Guyger lived directly below him on the third floor.

Guyger, who is white, told investigators when Jean, appeared in the darkness, she opened fire. She said she thought he was an intruder.

Guyger was initially charged with manslaughter in the days after the Sept. 6 shooting.

The grand jury upgraded the charge to murder.

Life in prison

If convicted of murder, Guyger faces life in prison. She would have faced up to 20 years in prison with a manslaughter charge.

“We thought that it was murder all along,” said Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.

Jean, a native of the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, had attended a Christian college in the U.S. and was working at the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers at the time of his death.

Lee Merritt, the Jean family attorney, said at a news conference Friday that the murder charge was a rare example of a U.S. police officer being charged with murder for violence against a black man.

“This is groundbreaking, but it is also just a start,” Merritt said. “We still realize that we have a very long way to go.”

Family 'hurting deeply'

Jean’s parents, who live in Saint Lucia, were present at the news conference Friday. Allison, his mother, said her country “has been on alert with the expectation that the grand jury will have returned with an indictment of murder.”

Jean’s father, Bertram, said, “We are hurting deeply, but we take some comfort at this time with the decision that the grand jury reached.” He added, “We go back to our homeland with much grief.”