Jury finds Dallas police officer guilty in shooting death of her neighbor

FILE PHOTO: Amber Guyger, who is charged in the killing of Botham Jean in his own home, arrives on the first day of the trial in Dallas, Texas, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jeremy Lock/File Photo

By Bruce Tomaso

DALLAS (Reuters) – A Dallas jury found former police officer Amber Guyger guilty on Tuesday of murder when she accidentally walked into a neighbor’s apartment thinking it was her own and shot him dead as he ate ice cream.

The Sept. 6, 2018, killing of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old black PwC accountant, by a white officer sparked street protests, particularly when prosecutors initially opted to bring the lesser charge of manslaughter against Guyger, 31.

“We the jury unanimously find the defendant Amber Guyger guilty of murder as charged in the indictment,” Judge Tammy Kemp read aloud to the courtroom from the jurors’ statement. A sob, which sounded like it came from Guyger’s bench, cut the judge off and Kemp paused to address the courtroom: “No outbursts.”

Guyger, who spent four years on the force before the killing, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for the slaying. She took the rare step of testifying in her own defense during her trial, tearfully expressing regret for shooting Jean but saying she had believed her life was in danger when she pulled the trigger.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. I have to live with this every single day,” Guyger told the jury of eight women and four men.

In cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Jason Hermus asked her, “When you shot him twice, you intended to kill him, didn’t you?”

“I did,” Guyger responded, in a calm voice.

Prosecutors also argued that Guyger did little to help Jean even after realizing her mistake, calling the 911 emergency phone number for an ambulance but not administering first aid.

Hermus also told the jury that Guyger missed blatant clues that she was not in her own apartment – including the smell of marijuana smoke – because she was distracted after a 16-minute phone conversation on her commute with her former police partner. Guyger testified that the call was in relation to work.

The shooting stood in contrast to cases like the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Philando Castile in Minnesota. Guyger shot Jean while she was off duty, rather than while responding to a reported crime.

In her testimony, Guyger told jurors that the shooting “is not about hate; it’s about being scared.”

Neither prosecutors nor the defense focused on race during the trial.

(Reporting by Bruce Tomaso in Dallas, additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Austin; Editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

Frenchman convicted to life in Jewish museum attack, tells jury ‘life goes on!’

By Clement Rossignol

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche was sentenced to life in jail on Monday for shooting dead four people in a Jewish museum in 2014, telling the court “life goes on” in his last words to the jury.

The families of victims and survivors of the attacks voiced relief at the end of a two-month-long jury trial dogged by controversy over what they denounced as conspiracy theories put forward by Nemmouche’s defense lawyers.

Nemmouche, 33, who staged the attack after coming back from Syria, spat out just that one short phrase ahead of the jury’s final deliberation on the length of his penalty on Monday.

Nacer Bendrer, another French citizen being tried as Nemmouche’s accomplice told the court, “I am ashamed to be here … I am ashamed to have crossed paths with this guy. He is not a man, he is a monster.”

The 12-person jury convicted Bendrer to 15 years in prison for acting as an accomplice. He was suspected of providing the weapon used in the shooting.

The attack in May 2014 – the first by a Western European who fought with Islamist militant factions in Syria’s civil war – highlights the threat posed by jihadist returning home.

The shooting killed an Israeli tourist couple, Myriam and Emmanuel Riva, and two employees of the museum, Dominique Sabrier and Alexandre Strens.

In final words, the prosecutor Yves Moreau called on the jury to hand down a tough sentence: “He will get out of jail and he’ll go on another crusade and start killing again,” he was cited by the state broadcaster RTBF as saying on Monday.

Turning to Nemmouche, who was largely impassive and refused to speak during the trial, he took aim at his lack of contrition. “The cherry on the cake: you aren’t even capable of taking responsibility for your acts,” he said.

Nemmouche, 33 – who was radicalized in the jail, according to investigators – is also facing charges in France over his role in holding hostage journalists in Syria.

During the high-profile trial, the two French journalists had testified that they remembered Nemmouche as a deeply anti-Semitic, sadistic and full of hatred.

Defense lawyers, who had alleged that prosecutors doctored video footage of the attack and that Nemmouche was framed in a settling of accounts between spies including Mossad agents, said he would not appeal the sentence.

(Reporting by Clement Rossingnol; Additional by Clare Roth; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Jan Strupczewski)

Widow of Orlando nightclub gunman knew of his plans, prosecutors say

Investigators work the scene following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando Florida, U.S. on June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

By Joey Roulette

ORLANDO (Reuters) – The widow of the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016 made statements to federal investigators after the attack that proved she knew of her husband’s plans, prosecutors told jurors on Wednesday.

But the defense attorney said Noor Salman was unaware that her husband, gunman Omar Mateen, intended to carry out the Pulse nightclub massacre on June 12, 2016.

“I wish I had gone back and told his family what he was going to do,” Salman told Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Mandolfo told jurors during his opening statement at Salman’s federal trial.

Salman made that comment right after she said she was sorry for the shooting rampage that had happened hours earlier, Mandolfo said. The prosecutor said her comment showed she had foreknowledge of the attack.

Salman, 31, faces up to life in prison if she is convicted in U.S. District Court in Orlando of aiding and abetting her husband and obstructing a federal investigation. She is the only person charged in the attack, which ended with Mateen’s death in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Salman was at home with the couple’s then-3-year-old son during her husband’s shooting spree. Defense attorney Linda Moreno told jurors Salman was unaware of her husband’s sinister plans.

“Noor was in the dark about Omar’s secret and despicable life,” Moreno said.

Moreno said the FBI did not record its interrogation of Salman and coerced her into making statements that favored the prosecution.

The trial is expected to last for a month.

According to prosecutors, Salman initially told investigators her husband acted without her knowledge but later acknowledged being aware that he was watching Islamic State recruitment videos, had purchased an assault rifle and examined three possible attack locations.

Salman’s attorneys contend the U.S. government could not show any direct links between Mateen and Islamic State before the attack and has provided no evidence that Salman aided her husband.

Salman was indicted on two charges: obstruction of justice for alleged false statements to federal investigators, and aiding and abetting Mateen in his attempt to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

Mateen, 29, opened fire shortly after the last call for drinks on the club’s popular Latin night.

Holding hostages during his standoff with police, he claimed allegiance to a leader of the Islamic State militant group before being fatally shot.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Florida; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)