Botham Jean’s family: “We miss our boy dearly.” Photo by Jeff Montgomery/ AP
After almost three months, the election of a new D.A., a police smear of the victim and a shifting but persistently implausible version of events by the shooter, a grand jury has indicted Amber Guyger, 30, for the murder in September of Botham Jean, 26, as he sat in his apartment watching a football game. A now-former white Dallas cop with a reportedly sketchy past – after the killing, she deleted racist, violent social media posts – Guyger told investigators she returned home that night after her shift, mistook Jean’s apartment for her own a floor below, and opened fire at what she thought was an intruder.
Lawyers, neighbors and relatives of Jean, a black native of St. Lucia who worked at an accounting firm, have challenged many details of Guyger’s story – electronic key, unlocked door, red mat at Jean’s door – even as protests followed the shooting of yet another black man by police with a troubling history of racial abuse. Police didn’t help matters by trying to smear the well-liked Botham, who was admired for his singing at church, by sleazily reporting some pot was found in his apartment, but failing to release Jean’s autopsy report, Guyger’s 911 call or her policing record.
Many in the community were also angered when, a few days after the shooting, Guyger was arrested on a mere manslaughter charge brought by D.A. Faith Johnson, a black Republican, and quickly released on bail. That anger trailed Johnson into the mid-terms: She lost by 20 points to incoming Democratic D.A. John Creuzot, who agreed with many attorneys that Guyger should be charged with murder. A Dallas County grand jury concurred on Friday, when Guyger turned herself in, and was again quickly freed on bail.
The new charge was praised by Color of Change activists – “the first step in the right direction” – and Jean’s parents, who have filed a federal lawsuit against Guyger and the city. “I look forward to the next step,” said his mother Allison, “which is a conviction of murder (and) a proper penalty so she can reflect on the pain she has caused.” “We take consolation” from the new charge, gravely added his father Bertram, “but we return to our island with much grief.”
Botham sings at church