DALLAS - If the recommendation from a magistrate judge stands, the city of Dallas will be removed from a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Botham Jean.
That would leave Amber Guyger, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for Jean’s murder, exposed to liability for the loss of Jean's life.
It's all detailed in documents filed in federal court.
Lawyers for Jean's family say he was killed because of poor training by Dallas PD, and that his death follows a pattern of unarmed individuals killed by DPD.
The magistrate judge said the case should be thrown out against the city of Dallas because there is no similar pattern, partly because Guyger was not on duty.
With Guyger’s sentencing done, the lawsuit against Guyger and the city of Dallas will move forward.
Jean's family alleges improper or inadequate training, and a pattern of unarmed men killed by Dallas police, along with a bias or cover up by DPD.
But a magistrate judge has recommended the city of Dallas be removed from the lawsuit, writing, "although the cases cited...involved shootings of unarmed minority individuals...they are not 'fairly similar' to Jean's shooting...none of these cases involved an off-duty officer approaching what he or she believed to be a burglary taking place in his or her own home."
“As we allege in our pleadings and as we have always argued, Amber Guyger was clearly on duty,” said attorney Daryl K. Washington, who is representing the Jean family. “The great majority of the evidence, and the presentation by Amber Guyger’s side, was that she was a police officer and that she acted as a police officer would behave.”
Washington cited other unarmed minorities killed by Dallas police in his objection, pointing to at least seven other DPD shootings of unarmed individuals where the plaintiffs blamed lack of training and customs or policies of the department.
The magistrate wrote, “those shootings are distinguishable from [the Guyger-Jean] case and do not establish a pattern,” adding, “they are insufficient to show a custom or policy supporting municipal liability."
“The dividing line is: One, she didn’t perceive that she was responding to a call, so she wasn’t doing anything that was actually on duty. It was her decision whether or not to protect her own property or not,” said former federal prosecutor Aaron Wiley, who is not involved in this case. “It’s very difficult to say that that had something to do with lack of adequate training or that it had something to do with a bias within the Dallas police force to shoot first and ask questions later.”
“It becomes disheartening where there’s not more leeway given to plaintiffs in situations like this where cities are allowed to just basically kick police officers under the bus and say, ‘You go after the police officer. By the way, the one that we trained, the one that we put on the street, the one that we issued a service revolver to,’ saying, ‘You go after them. We have nothing to do with it,’” Washington added.
The magistrate makes only recommendations to bring a conclusion to a legal matter.
It’s now up to the district judge to accept or reject the recommendation.
For now, the stay imposed by Judge Lynn is still in place. The filings say they will be in place until an appropriate time.