RICHARDSON, Texas — “The sound of the gunshots did not have the resonance to be heard on our small island, but its impact was of nuclear proportions,” Ignatius Jean told the more than 1,500 people who filled the Greenville Church of Christ here Sept. 13 at the funeral service for his nephew, Botham Jean.
Jean was shot and killed Sept. 6 by Dallas cop Amber Guyger. Jean, 26, was a native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia and a member of the Church of Christ.
Guyger, 30, lived in the same downtown Dallas apartment building as Botham Jean, one floor below. She claimed she went to the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment for hers, even though its big red rug at the entrance doesn’t look anything like hers.
She first said she used her key to get in, but later claimed the door was unlocked when she entered and fired two shots at Jean, one hitting him in the chest. Her key was found in the lock. She thought he was a burglar, she said, claiming he ignored “verbal commands.” Other residents on the floor said they heard her yelling for Jean to let her in and shooting him without any warning.
It wasn’t until three days later that Guyger was arrested, charged with manslaughter and released on $300,000 bond.
The killing of Botham Jean came on the heels of the Aug. 28 murder conviction of Dallas County police officer Roy Oliver for the 2017 killing of 15-year-old African-American Jordan Edwards. The next day the jury sentenced Oliver to 15 years in prison.
“We need to know, are there special favors for the police? Why are there no answers?” Dr. Ben Foster, pastor at the Church of Christ in Garland, told the Militant at the service. “Are they protecting the cop?”
“I sat behind Botham in Bible class at school. He made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. He showed us how to live. I never saw him angry. I want justice,” said 25-year-old Courtney Davis from Plano. Botham Jean graduated from Harding University in Arkansas, where Davis goes to school. The school held a vigil for him the day after the shooting and many students and teachers attended the funeral.
There were a number of people who came from St. Lucia for the service. “My heart is heavy,” Madilene Burnett said. “My parents know his mom. When the body is sent to St. Lucia the service will be large.” She said that when the word spread of Jean’s killing, a vigil was held there.
Family, clergy denounce killing, smear
“The undeniable reality is he was slain in his home, where he had the right to be and was abiding by the law,” Sammie Barry, minister of the West Dallas Church of Christ where Jean was active, told a press conference attended by clergy, the family and its attorneys following Jean’s funeral. “We are here and demand justice for our dear brother Bo.”
Allison Jean, Botham’s mother, denounced the cops at a Sept. 14 press conference for releasing a report on the day of her son’s funeral claiming there was 10.4 grams of marijuana in his apartment.
“Give me justice for my son because he does not deserve what he got,” she said. “I will not sit back and see that justice does not prevail.”
“Twenty-six years without a blemish and it took being murdered by a white Dallas police officer in his own home to make Botham Jean a criminal,” Lee Merritt, one of the family’s attorneys, added.
Guyger, a five-year veteran of the Dallas police department, has been put on paid administrative leave. In an earlier 2017 incident, she shot Uvaldo Perez, who was a suspect in a criminal investigation, but she wasn’t indicted.
Since the killing, there have been series of protests and vigils throughout Dallas demanding that Guyger be fired, prosecuted and jailed. “The officer needs to be fired immediately,” attorney Merritt told the crowd at a Sept. 14 protest outside the Dallas police department. “And we cannot forget O’Shae Terry who was killed in Arlington Sept. 1. The cop pulled out his gun and shot him five times. We need to see these all the way through to conviction.”
Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas, also spoke. “This is another example of why working people need to build a movement independent from the capitalist rulers, their state and their parties,” she said. “Police brutality is a class question. You cannot reform the police. We must continue to fight police brutality against working people.”