I may sympathize, but Guyger is still guilty

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

Years back, I worked as a school bus driver out in the far western suburbs. Because I would have a four hour break between shifts, one day I decided to make a quick trip out to Elgin. It was only about a half-hour away from where I was. I got on the I-290 expressway headed westbound around Route 83 and then for some reason that I can no longer recall, I got off several exits later to continue on Lake Street. I believe that I changed my mind because taking Lake Street would be the smarter option as it would put me closer to my destination then to continue on I-290 and end up much too far north.

As I drove on Lake Street, I kept seeing signs that said I was headed eastbound. I remember thinking to myself that I knew I was headed west and I was going to write Governor Blagojevich (who was the governor at that time) and tell him how they had all the signs on the road wrong because I was headed westbound and all the signs kept saying eastbound. How could the state make such a stupid error?

I drove for at least 15 minutes, thoroughly convinced that I was headed westbound even though the road signs said differently. It was only when I came to a recognizable intersection that I had to finally admit and acknowledge that I had been headed eastbound the entire time. 

I recall pulling over and sitting for about an hour unable to comprehend how I could disregard what I saw because my mind kept telling me something else. It was a powerful lesson then and remains a powerful memory now. How my mind could play a trick and convince me to disregard everything I saw was a compelling affirmation of the power of the mind.

It is because of that memory that I can partially understand the Amber Guyger case. She is the off-duty police officer who parked on the wrong floor and went to what she thought was her apartment. Just like me, she disregarded all the warning signs that should have alerted her that she was at the wrong location. She had, in fact, arrived at the apartment of Botham Jean. Amber was convinced it was her apartment and, believing this was an intruder, opened fire. As we all now know, she was at the wrong place.

While I can empathize with her believing she was at her apartment, I cannot be in agreement regarding her decision to use lethal force as the solution. Because she was off duty, her first obligation should have been to call the police who were on duty. There was no imminent threat to her. The only threat that existed was the one she caused by going through that door. And that decision is the reason I strongly feel she needed to be found guilty. Her decision tells me she is trigger happy and would have been quick to kill anybody she found to be burglarizing an apartment. 

Her behavior following the shooting also made me feel she was guilty. Instead of attempting to save Botham's life, she spent more time on the phone worried about losing her job. Her callous disregard was evident thanks to a video a neighbor shot as well as her 911 call where neither she nor the operator seemed to be concerned about giving first aid to the shooting victim.

It is the above fact that I am not thrilled about the 10-year sentence. From the hugs in the courtroom, to a key witness in the case being killed, to rumblings that Amber may not serve her entire sentence, we should stay vigilant and monitor how this all plays out for the future.

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