The family of Botham Shem Jean, who was shot to death in his own apartment by his neighbor, an off-duty police officer, has hired Attorney Benjamin Crump to handle the case. Crump is one of the nation’s foremost civil rights attorneys.
Amber Guyger, 30, has said she mistakenly walked into the apartment of Jean, a Black man, believing it was hers. She was arrested and charged with manslaughter before being released on $300,000 bond.
According to an arrest warrant, Guyger, who is White, told investigators that she went to what she thought was her third floor apartment. Instead, she went to Jean’s fourth floor apartment directly above hers. One account of the events reports Guyger saying she found the door “ajar” and saw a “large silhouette” inside.
After giving “verbal commands that were ignored,” she fired her handgun twice, striking Jean once in the torso. It wasn’t until the officer “turned on the … lights” and “called 911” that she realized she was “at the wrong apartment.”
Her case now heads to a grand jury where her charges could be elevated up to murder, according to CBS News.
Attorney Crump is known for representing the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Martin was the Black 17-year-old who was fatally shot in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a Hispanic man who was his Orlando-area neighborhood’s watch captain.
Brown, who was 18, was shot to death in 2014 by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
“Black people in America have been killed by police in some of the most unbelievable manners,” Crump said Sept. 9 at a news conference, citing “driving while Black in our cars” and “walking while Black in our neighborhoods.”
Now, he said, “we are being killed living while Black when we are in our apartments.”
The family’s legal team also includes Lee Merritt, who has represented relatives of an unarmed Black teenager who was shot in the back by a White police officer in June while fleeing a traffic stop near Pittsburgh.
“We will make certain that justice is done in this case,” said Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside Dallas police headquarters Monday evening, Sept. 10 to demand justice for Jean.
Guyger, a four-year veteran of the police department, was wearing her police uniform after having completed a 15-hour shift.
In one account of the events, Guyger said she went to the door and tried to open it. The 26-year-old Jean heard the commotion and opened the door.
Guyger, believing he was a burglar, shot him. It is not clear if any words were exchanged between the two.
Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, wondered if race played a role in the deadly shooting. “If he had been a White man, would things have turned out differently?” she asked.
Attorneys for Jean’s family say two witnesses told them details that contradict Guyger’s account of the incident.
“They heard knocking down the hallway followed by a woman’s voice that they believe to be officer Guyger saying, ‘Let me in. Let me in,’” Attorney Lee Merritt said.
The family’s attorneys say one of the witnesses then heard gunshots followed by a man’s voice.
“What we believe to be the last words of Botham Jean which was ‘Oh my God, why did you do that?’” Merritt said.
Allison Jean wants to know what happened to her son.
“I’m not satisfied that we have all the answers,” Allison Jean said. “There is really no reason why a mother should have to wait until the conclusion of an investigation to know what happened to her child,” said Daryl Washington, another one of the family’s attorneys.
The Texas Rangers, the state police unit which is leading the independent investigation, has been tight lipped about the case. Jean’s family’s attorneys say he was unarmed.
Jean was pronounced dead at Baylor Medical Center.
Social media reports noted Guyger and Jean were acquainted. But a photograph of Jean with several women is posted on Facebook, but Jean’s family lawyer said that none of the women is Guyger. Police also confirmed the two weren’t acquainted.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Guyger was involved in an earlier on-duty shooting incident when she shot Uvaldo Perez, 47, in 2017 after he wrestled away her taser. He was shot in the stomach and survived.
Jean, a native of St. Lucia, had been working as an intern in risk assurance for accounting at Price Waterhouse Coopers, an international accounting and consulting firm with offices in Dallas. He was a 2016 graduate of Harding University, a private Christian liberal arts university in Searcy, Arkansas. He earned degrees in accounting and business systems. Jean was also a member of the school’s campus ministry.