Police officer who shot unarmed neighbour hugged by victim’s brother
The gesture has been called an amazing act of healing and forgiveness.
The brother of a black man shot dead by his police officer neighbour has embraced the defendant before she was sentenced to 10 years for his murder.
Amber Guyger said she mistook Botham Jean’s apartment for her own and fatally shot him in his living room in September 2018.
People outside of the courtroom reacted angrily to the sentence given to Guyger, believing it was too lenient.
But Mr Jean’s brother addressed her directly from the witness stand.
Brandt Jean told Guyger that his brother would have wanted her to turn her life over to Christ, and that if she can ask God for forgiveness, she will get it.
“I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you,” he said to the 31-year-old Guyger, before adding, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?”
The judge said he could, and Mr Jean and Guyger stood up, met in front of the bench and embraced while Guyger cried.
Judge Tammy Kemp also hugged Guyger before she was led from the courtroom.
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a former trial judge, called Brandt Jean’s embrace of Guyger “an amazing act of healing and forgiveness that is rare in today’s society … especially for many of our leaders”.
If the 18-year-old brother “can heal and express healing in that fashion, in his words and in his deeds, I would hope that the greater community, not just Dallas but all of Texas and all of the United States, could gain a message from that”, he told reporters.
Dallas mayor Eric Johnson issued a statement saying he was “deeply moved” and would “never, ever forget the incredible examples of love, faith and strength personified by Botham, Brandt and the entire Jean family”.
Botham Jean’s father told jurors about how his son’s death upended his life back in St Lucia.
Bertrum Jean said that after his son left their Caribbean island for college in Arkansas, he would call home every Sunday after church to catch up with the tightly knit family.
Now, he said, his Sundays “have been destroyed”.
“How could we have lost Botham? Such a sweet boy. He tried his best to live a good honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone. How could this happen to him?” the father said, breaking into tears.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Mr Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, criticised the investigation into her son’s death and the police training to shoot to kill.
If Guyger “was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be alive today. He was no threat to her. He had no reason to be a threat to her, because he was in his own apartment”, Allison Jean said.
The basic facts of the shooting were not in dispute: Guyger, returning from a long shift that night, parked on the wrong floor and mistook Mr Jean’s apartment for her own, which was directly below his.
She entered Mr Jean’s fourth-floor apartment and shot him, thinking he was a burglar. He had been eating a bowl of ice cream before she fired.
In the frantic 911 call played repeatedly during the trial, Guyger said “I thought it was my apartment” nearly 20 times.
Her lawyers argued that the identical physical appearance of the apartment complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants going to the wrong apartments.
But prosecutors questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place.