DALLAS — Botham Jean’s family has filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex where the 26-year-old was fatally shot two years ago by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger.
In their wrongful death lawsuit filed Tuesday, Jean’s family alleges a confusing floor layout and faulty door at South Side Flats contributed to Jean’s death.
Guyger was still in uniform but off-duty when she returned home from a shift and entered Jean’s apartment and shot him on Sept. 6, 2018. She testified at her trial last year that she mistook his apartment for hers and wrongly thought he was a burglar. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
During her trial, multiple residents testified they had gone to the wrong floor and even attempted to enter the wrong apartment before the shooting. Investigators found that 71 residents from the third and fourth floors — where Guyger and Jean lived — had done so, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that a confusing layout and a lack of proper signage made it difficult for residents to tell which floor they were on. Additionally, Jean’s family says a malfunction in Jean’s and other residents’ doors prevented the doors from closing properly, particularly in certain weather conditions.
The problems with the door latching were also part of the testimony at Guyger’s trial.
Defendants include South Side Flats Dallas; Waterton Residential, the apartment’s management company; and Dormakaba Group USA, which manufactured the door locking system at the apartments.
Jean’s family alleges that each party was negligent and that the negligence contributed to his death.
“Despite notice of the problems with the doors and the fact that the entries into the building are indistinguishable, defendants South Side and Waterton failed to assure that the doors were working properly and the entryway to each floor was properly labeled, for the safety of their tenants and their guests,” the lawsuit states.
In an email, a representative from Dormakaba Group USA declined to comment “given the active litigation status of the case.”
Erin Ankin, general counsel for Waterton, said in an email that the company and apartment community continue to express sympathy for the Jean family, though Ankin declined to comment on specific allegations in the civil suit. She added the jury’s verdict last fall rejected Guyger’s claim that the property led to her confusion.
“Rather, Ms. Guyger was not paying attention to the many well-illuminated signs and other aspects of the property which clearly would have indicated that she was on the wrong floor and at the wrong apartment,” the statement said.
Jean’s family seeks an unspecified amount of money in damages and has requested a jury trial.
Daryl K. Washington, attorney for Jean’s family, said the family is still coping with Jean’s death as the second anniversary of the shooting approaches.
“I see the same pain in their eyes I saw when I first met them shortly after the death of Botham. Botham was their life. This was a very close-knit family, and this is not something that mothers and fathers get over easily,” Washington said. “Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.”
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