Dallas cop breaks down talking about killing her neighbor

DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas police officer started to cry and shake Friday as she began to testify about the night she killed a neighbor in his own home, which she has said she mistook for her own unit one floor below.

Amber Guyger broke down while recalling approaching her neighbor Botham Jean's door, leading the judge to call for a brief break so she could compose herself.

Guyger, who is charged with murder in the killing last September, was the first witness that her lawyers called in the high-profile case. She told jurors about how she grew up in a small house in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, how she played in the school band and how she aspired to become a police officer.

"I just wanted to help people and that was the one career that I thought I could help people in," said Guyger, who was fired from the police force after the shooting.

Guyger's testimony marked the first time the public has heard directly from the 31-year-old since Jean's killing last September. Guyger, who is white, was off duty but in uniform when she shot Jean, a 26-year-old native of the Caribbean nation of St. Lucia who was black and worked as an accountant in Dallas.

RELATED: Former Dallas officer accused of killing neighbor, Botham Jean

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Former Dallas officer Amber Guyger convicted of killing her neighbor, Botham Jean
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Former Dallas officer Amber Guyger convicted of killing her neighbor, Botham Jean
FILE - This file photo provided by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office shows Amber Guyger. A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in the case of Guyger, a former Dallas police officer who fatally shot her unarmed black neighbor in his own apartment after she said she mistook it for hers on Sept. 6, 2018. (Kaufman County (Texas) Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
This March 24, 2014, photo provided by Harding University in Searcy, Ark., shows Botham Jean, speaking at the university. Authorities said Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, that a Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed Jean, a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Jeff Montgmery/Harding University via AP)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
This photo from video released Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office in Kaufman, Texas, shows Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger getting booked after turning herself in Sunday, Sept. 9 following the fatal shooting of Botham Jean in his own apartment. Guyger was arrested manslaughter and has since been released on bond. (Kaufman County Sheriff's Office Jail via AP)
South Side Flats apartments are shown in this Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
Brandt Jean, center left, brother of shooting victim Botham Jean, hugs his sister Allisa Charles-Findley, during a news conference outside the Frank Crowley Courts Building on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Dallas, about the shooting of Botham Jean by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on Thursday. He was joined by his mother, Allison Jean, left, and attorney Benjamin Crump, right. (AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A resident holds up an electronic key used to open an apartment door at the South Side Flats in this Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
People stand near Botham Jean's apartment in this Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
This photo from video released Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, by the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office in Kaufman, Texas, shows Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger getting booked after turning herself in Sunday, Sept. 9 following the fatal shooting of Botham Jean in his own apartment. Guyger was arrested manslaughter and has since been released on bond. (Kaufman County Sheriff's Office Jail via AP)
A Dallas Police vehicle is parked near the South Side Flats apartments on Monday, Sept. 10 2018 photo in Dallas. Authorities say a Dallas police officer said she shot a neighbor whose home she mistakenly entered last week after he ignored her "verbal commands." David Armstrong of the Texas Rangers wrote in an arrest affidavit released Monday that Officer Amber Guyger said she didn't realize she was in the wrong apartment until after she shot 26-year-old Botham Jean and went into the hallway to check the address. Guyger was booked Sunday on a manslaughter charge in Thursday night's killing of Jean and was released on bond.(AP Photo/Ryan Tarinelli)
South Side Flats is shown in this Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 photo. A Dallas police officer returning home from work shot and killed a neighbor after she said she mistook his apartment for her own, authorities said Friday. The officer called dispatch to report that she had shot the man Thursday night, police said. She told responding officers that she believed the victim's apartment was her own when she entered it. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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The basic facts of the unusual shooting are not in dispute. Guyger walked up to Jean's apartment — which was on the fourth floor, directly above hers on the third — and found the door unlocked. She was off duty but still dressed in her police uniform after a long shift when she shot Jean with her service weapon. Guyger was later arrested, fired and charged with murder.

Guyger's attorneys say she fired in self-defense after mistaking Jean for a burglar. Her attorneys also say the identical physical appearance of the complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants parking on the wrong floor or trying to enter the wrong apartment.

Prosecutors have questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place, and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages with her police partner. Prosecutors also say Jean was no threat to Guyger, noting that he was in his living room eating a bowl of ice cream when she entered his apartment.

In a frantic 911 call played in court earlier this week, Guyger says "I thought it was my apartment" nearly 20 times. The shooting attracted intense national scrutiny for the strange circumstances and because it was one in a chain of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

The trial began Monday.

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Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle contributed to this report.

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