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Botham Jean’s Parents and Estate Sue Apartment Complex, Argue Murder Was Preventable

South Side Flats

The parents and estate of Botham Shem Jean, 26, are suing the apartment complex where he was murdered, as well as the company that allegedly manufactured the tenants’ key fobs.

“The door, strike plate, and locking mechanism were defective and unreasonably dangerous, as it made it nearly impossible for the door to properly close, allowing anyone to enter Botham’s apartment uninvited and unannounced,” the plaintiffs said in a complaint filed against South Side Flats, and key fob-manufacturer Dormakaba.

Then-Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger shot and killed Jean in his apartment on the fourth floor of the South Side Flats apartment building on September 6, 2018. There was no dispute that Guyger shot and killed Jean, but her defense asserted that she believed she was entering her apartment on the third floor. The defense argued that Guyger reasonably made the mistake after a long day at work. Thinking the victim was an intruder, she pulled out her gun and fired.

Jurors agreed with the prosecution that this was not a reasonable mistake. This was murder. Nonetheless, they sentenced Guyger well below the maximum possible punishment. She is appealing the conviction.

According to the complaint filed on Tuesday, there was a pattern at South Side of doors failing to reliably close. Jean’s apartment was no exception. The plaintiffs asserted that when Guyger reached the door, either it had not closed as designed or her key fob allowed her to enter even though it was not designed to do that.

According to a Texas Ranger Division investigation, the strike plate was “over torqued” when installed, leading to a crack inside the door frame. It had rained the day Jean died, so it was humid. Law enforcement conducted an experiment on Oct. 2018 when the weather was similar. They found that the door did not fully latch, depending on the distance that the door was open before they let go.

Plaintiffs mentioned that Guyger also testified at the trial that the layout of the building was confusing, leading to her parking on the fourth floor of the parking garage. The complaint cited evidence from the law enforcement investigation that a number of tenants reported walking to the wrong apartment on the wrong floor, inserted key fobs into locks on the wrong doors, and unintentionally parked on the wrong floor.

According to the plaintiffs, the companies failed to address the door problems even though the apartment complex was in an area with crime, and failed to handle problems with the layout of the building. It was further alleged that the defendants were aware of these problems.

South Side Flats and Dormakaba did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request of comment.

[Screengrab via NBC DFW]

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