Dallas Police Shooting Scene

Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP

Dallas Police Officer Shoots, Kills Neighbor After Mistaking His Apartment For Her Own

September 07, 2018 - 7:34 pm

DALLAS (WCBS 880/AP) -- Police in Dallas are investigating a bizarre fatal shooting involving one of their own.

A white Dallas police officer who said she mistook a black neighbor's apartment for her own fatally shot that person, and authorities are seeking manslaughter charges, police said.

It was not clear what the officer may have said to 26-year-old Botham Jean after entering his home late Thursday. But given what investigators currently know about the case, they decided to pursue a manslaughter case, police said.

"Right now, there are more questions than we have answers," Police Chief U. Renee Hall told a news conference. She said she spoke to Jean's sister to express condolences to the family.

It was also unclear if the officer was in custody. Hall said she did not know the whereabouts of the officer, whose name was not released.

According to police, the officer returned home in her uniform after her shift.

“What happened is this female officer was coming home after her shift – apparently around a 12-hour shift. They’re a little unmanned here in Dallas police, so she had worked a 12-hour shift, walked home to an apartment complex – which is only a few blocks away from the station – went up one floor higher than she thought she did, and actually went to the wrong apartment,” Austin York of KRLD NewsRadio 1080.

Details after that get “fuzzy,” York explained.

“We do know she was trying to get into the apartment, another man opened the door, and there was some type of confrontation. She pulled her weapon, and shot the man twice in the chest, killing him. And so right now, they’re trying to investigate exactly what happened leading up to that, but a warrant at this point has been issued, or is in the process of being issued, for manslaughter for this officer,” he said.

The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot a man, and she later told the officers who responded that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it.

The responding officers administered first aid to Jean, a native of the Caribbean country of St. Lucia who attended college in Arkansas and worked for accounting and consulting firm PwC. Jean was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Hall said the officer's blood was drawn to be tested for drugs and alcohol. She declined to speculate as to whether fatigue or other factors, including race, may have factored into the shooting. She also said the Texas Rangers will conduct an independent investigation.

There was no indication that the officer and Botham had any prior connection.

“At this point, that’s all that we’re hearing – that she just went to the wrong floor. I guess she was tired – whatever it was, this person that opened the door was a well-known guy in the area, worked extensively at the church,” York said. “They had never apparently had any kind of connection whatsoever, and this was just a horrible case of going to the wrong apartment, and she thought that this man was in her apartment, when in fact, he was in his own.”

People in Dallas have concerns, particularly given the racial dynamic.

“Also, this woman had been working with the department for five years, and she had had another case just last year in which she shot someone who was involved – they got in some kind of melee, and the suspect had been able to pull her Taser. So this isn’t the first incident in which she shot somebody. That person did not die,” York said, “so I guarantee a lot of people in this community – in the African-American community and in Dallas in general, are wondering if this woman is a little too quick to pull her gun.”

Jean grew up in St. Lucia and attended Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, where he majored in accounting and information systems and often led campus worship services before graduating in 2016, the school said in a statement. That July, he went to work for PwC in risk assurance. The company in a statement that it was "simply heartbroken to hear of his death."

Jean Botham
Jeff Montgomery/Harding University via AP

Family and friends described Jean as a devout Christian and a talented singer. His uncle Ignatius Jean said the slaying left relatives looking for answers.

"You want to think it's fiction ... and you have to grapple with the reality," he said.

He called Jean a "brilliant" man of "impeccable character" and said news of his death had rippled across the small island nation of St. Lucia.

"Botham was in the prime of his life," his uncle said.

Nathan Monan, a friend from Harding University, said Botham Jean was kind to everybody.

"This doesn't make sense to anybody right now," he said.

Authorities have not said how the officer got into Jean's home, or whether his door was open or unlocked. The apartment complex is just a few blocks from Dallas police headquarters.

Residents of the complex said they can access their units with a key or through a keypad code.

Jeffrey Scherzer, who lives there, said when he returned home late at night an officer escorted him to his apartment and warned him to steer clear of a blood trail.

Two women who live on the second floor near where the shooting happened said they heard a lot of noise late Thursday.

"It was, like, police talk: 'Open up! Open up!'" 20-year-old Caitlin Simpson told The Dallas Morning News.

Yazmine Hernandez, 20, was studying with Simpson when they heard the commotion.

"We heard cops yelling, but otherwise had no idea what was going on," Hernandez said.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)