Amber Guyger faces 10 years in jail the same day I walk into the wrong apartment

How a knee-jerk reaction killed someone’s child

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Oct 4 · 5 min read
Photo credit: Pixabay

I am one of the only people I know who enjoys jury duty. I think it’s important for a diverse group of peers to sit in on criminal and civil trials so people get a fair shot at telling their sides of the story. But I would have been a horrendous juror for the defense team in the Amber Guyger trial in which the former Dallas, Texas officer shot and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean. According to her own testimony, she believed Jean had broken into her own apartment, which was on a different floor. In reality, she’d broken into his home — with “1478” plain as day on it.

I just couldn’t buy into her story. I have had nine total mailing addresses, primarily due to college and work-related moves. And I have never gone to the wrong door in any of those addresses. Even if I ignore that there was a red doormat in front of Jean’s apartment, my skepticism was a bit simpler. If I had a blackout in my apartment right now, I’d know where every single piece of furniture, artwork and even my dishes were. I know where I live.

On top of that, simply looking at the floor and numbers on the door would tell me where I was. I’d never tried to open the wrong door — until I did.

Photo credit: MasterTux/Pixabay

As of today, I’ve completed 253 dog walks with 48 different dogs. I’m used to walking into apartments, condos and homes that I’m unfamiliar with. Less than 10 homes had someone at home, so I was particularly confused when I grabbed the keys to a dog’s home, unlocked a door and the smell of marijuana smacked me in the face. I stood at the top steps and called out for the dog, assuming he wasn’t crated. Then I happened to look by a wall and saw a pair of long legs moving. I leaned over, still at the top steps, and the long legs stood up.

Around the corner came a 20-something white guy. I smiled at him and said, “Hi, I’m here to walk your dog.” And his response was, “You need to get out. You have the wrong apartment.”

I stood there absolutely confused. I waved my Wag! app at him and confirmed that he was “Apartment G.” He said, “Across the hall is an Apartment G too. Get out.” I was perplexed about how I unlocked the door. He explained that his door was unlocked — and that’s when it hit me that the door opened way too easily.

Meanwhile I couldn’t have been happier that the guy whose apartment I’d unknowingly broken into was clearly smoking weed.

Just like that, I’d done the exact same thing that Guyger did on September 6, 2018 — if her testimony is to be believed. And she was the first person who popped into my mind. I apologized to him. He locked his door. I walked directly across the lobby floor and saw that there really were two “G” apartments. (I later realized that the building included two even-numbered addresses, i.e. 1234 W. Street, Apt. G, and 1236 W. Street, Apt. G.)

Suddenly my months-long rant about how far-fetched her story was made me reevaluate it. I wondered if I judged her too quickly. It still bugged me that news reports tried to shame Jean for having marijuana in his home. Meanwhile I couldn’t have been happier that the guy whose apartment I’d unknowingly broken into was clearly smoking weed. I’m sure that calmed him down considerably.

After I walked the dog, I ripped out a blank sheet of paper from a library book I was reading (sorry, CPL) and wrote him a handwritten note, apologizing about entering his apartment. I taped it to his door. I have no idea if he read it. It’s been less than 24 hours.

While I definitely would not react how Jean’s brother did — Brandt Jean asked if he could hug Guyger and forgave her — at the end of that trial, I reconsidered my original views. I wondered if I was on the jury, could I have sympathized with the four-year officer and understood how such a mistake is easy to make. My answer is still no.

While I made the same error that she did, it’s what did not happen while I was there that makes all the difference. The guy on the couch didn’t go into attack mode anymore than Jean did, and I was the one entering his apartment. He just pointed to his door and shooed me out. He definitely would’ve had more of a right to self-defense than I would had this incident gone terribly wrong. But he kept his cool with a complete stranger inside of his door.

Photo credit: Terje Sollie/Pexels

I still don’t understand why all of the de-escalation training she did went out of the window. I definitely have an issue with her Dr. King and funeral text message “jokes.” I’ll never comprehend why her first aid kit was ignored and why she only completed brief CPR once she knew she was in the wrong apartment.

I sympathize with the mother who lost her child. I sympathize with the man who was killed for simply minding his business — the man who had no choice but to be put in the scary position in which the person who shot him was still in his apartment while he fought for his life. I’m unmoved by Guyger’s tears. People make mistakes, but it’s what they do after the mistake is made that shows what type of person they are.

R.I.P. to Botham Shem Jean

I Do See Color

These are writings on race, gender and social justice. Ditch tokenism, embrace diversity.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

14-year journalist; freelance writer/editor (Upwork); Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Unity Toastmasters member and 4x officer; Visit Shamontiel.com

I Do See Color

These are writings on race, gender and social justice. Ditch tokenism, embrace diversity.

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