Unjust, Unlawful, and Unnecessary

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is an essay detailing the events of Botham Shem Jean, a twenty-six-year-old African-American who was gunned down in his apartment at the beginning of this month by a white Dallas police
officer.

Submitted: September 17, 2018

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Submitted: September 17, 2018

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Unit 1478 on the fourth floor of the South Side Apartment Complex was an eight-hundred square-foot cozy personal living space, often referred to as a bachelor pad: dishes had begun piling up in the sink, morphing itself into its very own Mount Everest. Pancake syrup, dish detergent, and other minuscule personal belongings only adding to the clutter upon the kitchen island. It was the evening of September 6, 2018. His twenty-seventh birthday, a big celebration, was only three weeks away.

Botham Shem Jean was a twenty-six-year-old successful businessman, and determined college graduate, from Harding University in Arkansas, who analyzed financial risks for a multitude of clients for a living at a global auditing firm. For a man with his particular set of skills, a man with his knowledge; in his line of work, the rest of the night as he headed home from a hard day's labor appearing to him, as average and risk-free, as any other weeknight for him. He would be alone, in his one-bedroom apartment. He had sent his sister a quick message via text message, outlaying his adventurous proposals for the evening: watching a National Football League game on television, it was the Falcons versus the Eagles, an anticipated match. He had also texted a good friend of his, apologizing profusely for not "going out," with her the weekend prior.

Jean was described as "always having a smile on his face," that stretched from ear to ear, as well as the St. Lucia native being a big eater, winning a meat-lovers' contest at a Big Chef Steak House back in the Caribbean. He still had his ticket for a free meal on the house during his next visit; his reward for consuming an entire two-pound steak in a single sitting.

In a matter of three hours, however, Botham Jean would be dead. A Caucasian female Dallas CRT police officer, a woman by the name of Amber R. Guyger, who resided in Unit 1378, the apartment directly below the victim, claimed that she mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after returning home from her supposed fourteen-hour shift, and fully believed beyond a reasonable doubt, that Jean, who was indeed black, was an intruder. Guyger confessed she brandished service weapon, and fired two clear and disturbing gunshots in the evening night, striking Jean once in the upper torso.

Jean was transferred to a local medical center, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival, his prominent demise now the center of a mystery that has much of the Dallas region both enraged, and puzzled. One of the most asked questions, was why did Guyger pull the trigger on an unarmed man, in the privacy of his own home?

...

The racial profiling of African-American males and females put phrases into the American vocabulary that no one has heard before--"driving while black," "walking while black," and "shopping while black," are only a few; the tip of the iceberg. After the shooting death of Botham Jean, a new phrase began to emerge into our own mental Webster's Dictionary; "being at home while black."

The fatal shooting has become the latest, and the most bizarre, by far, confrontation between an unarmed black man and a while law enforcement officer, enraging many investigators, journalists, and simple civilians who have followed the story from the beginning, who say they simply don't believe Guyger's side of the story. In a prominent city with decades of racial divisions in its history, the case has, once again, heightened tensions. It was only a little more than two years ago, when a trained military sniper ambushed Dallas police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest, killing five officers. Protestors have chanted and disrupted a City Council meeting on Wednesday, and violent threats against police have poured in as the days passed by. Officers have announced that they fully believe Guyger's account of events, while many in the black community, including myself, though I am white, do not. City Officials and other leaders, as well, have been caught in the middle.

"This is the worst sort of situation, because we all expect to be safe in our own homes," Michael Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas, commented in an interview. "Everybody is heartbroken. Everybody wants the same thing--let's get the answers. This is what the mother said to me; I was sitting there talking to her Saturday morning, and she said 'I'm not angry, but I just want to know why this lady shot my son.'"

Officer Amber Guyger, #107102, was charged with first-degree manslaughter on September 9, and released shortly thereafter on a bond of $300,000, and numerous questions still remain unanswered. Jean's relatives, as well as their attorney's, say that Jean and Guyger did not know each other and it's not known whether there might have been a dispute between them, simply as neighbors. Only two nights prior to the catastrophic events of September 6, Guyger had filed a complaint with the property manager of the South Side Flats regarding Jean and a noise complaint.

Guyger told officers and investigators that the door to 1478 was slightly ajar, and then opened fully when she inserted her computerized chip key; while the lawyer's for Mr. Jean's relatives maintain that the door was closed. While in a court proceeded hearing, Guyger commented in court documents that when she opened the door to the apartment, the inside was pitch black; all she could make out was a silhouette of a stranger she believed was a burglar. She maintained that she shouted multiple verbal commands that were ignored, although this fact did not come into the light until after she had been charged and arrested. 

Neighbors of Botham Jean, however, have told the lawyers for Jean's family that they heard a female voice, believed to be that of Amber Guyger, banging on the door and shouting "let me in!" and "open up!" moments before two distinct gunshots were fired. They then reportedly heard a man, presumably, that of Jean, say, "oh my God, why did you do that?"

Accounts of banging and shouting came as puzzling to all who listened, due to the fact that Guyger was not in any kind of romantic relationship, and lived by herself, and it makes no sense as to why she would have banged on the door, if she thought she was at her own apartment unit.

In more ways than one, the dramatic response unfolding onto the streets of Dallas appears and feels similar to other high-profile cases of law enforcement officials gunning down unarmed African-American's that have gripped the country in rapid succession in recent years. Jean's family hired attorney Benjamin Crump to represent them, the same lawyer who represented the relatives of Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, two other unarmed African-American children who were shot and killed. They also hired S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer who represented the family of Jordan Edwards, the fifteen-year-old freshman student who was killed by a white police officer last year in a Dallas suburb. Roy Oliver, the officer who shot Edwards with an AR-15, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

In an echo of prior police killings, there has been critical backlash over what seem to be attempts to incriminate the clear victim of the incident. The Dallas Police Department reportedly released a search warrant for Jean's apartment unit less than twelve hours after he was killed, that revealed that 10.4 grams of marijuana in multiple ziploc baggies had been located in the premesis.

"First they assassinate his person," attorney Crump announced in a press conference, "then they assassinate his character." Though it had been reported that hours earlier in the evening, managers at South Side had received complaints from residents that there was a strong smell of marijuana in the fourth-floor hallway, Jean himself had been at his day job until late in the evening; and it has not been confirmed who was responsible for the odor on the floor. I find it highly believeable, that law enforcement planted the addicting substance in the man's apartment, in an attempt to slander his name; and make him into a criminal he never was.

Crump, Merritt, Jean's relatives, along with fellow supporters, including myself, all say it would have been incredibly difficult for Guyger to have mistaken Jean's door for her own: he had a large, bright-red colored semicircular doormat, lying silently on the cold concrete floor. Guyger did not have one, why did she not notice this?

"My main concern is that she is lying," Merritt added in the conference.

While the relationship between law enforcement and African-American residents are strained, this case is playing out before our very eyes in one of the most diverse law enforcement settings in the country.

...

Dallas, Texas, appears to be the only major city, and county in the United States of America where the police chief, the county sheriff, and the district attorney are all the same being: successful African-American women: Chief U. Renee Hall, Sheriff Marian Brown, and District Attorney Faith Johnson. Chief Hall was appraised by thousands of people for turning the investigation as a whole over to the Texas Rangerss, in order to fully ensure an independent inquiry, and both Hall and Ms. Johnson attended Jean's funeral on Thursday morning, as did several other high-ranking officials. However, the clear diversity in the ranks of law enforcement has not yet quelled the anger over the shooting, and over the department's handling of it, as a whole.

African-American activists, associated with organizations such as the Black Lives Matter group, religious leaders, as well as multiple elected officials have all criticized the authorities harshly, without mercy, for charging the officer with manslaughter, instead of murder. They also make clear, that they want to be informed as to why she was not instantly arrested at the scene of the crime, and was allowed to go free until she was officially charged more than three days later. They demand that Officer Guyger, who has remained on paid administrative leave, be terminated from her position immideately.

"The reasonableness of her explanation is what's called into question," State Senator Royce West, who is an African-American Democrat, and district includes the South Side Flats, said in a conference. "The question is whether or ont she saw a black man and decided to open fire. Regardless of whether or not he was in the right place, or not, her first impulse appeared to be that she was going to fire her weapon."

The attorney chosen to represent Guyger, a man by the name of Robert L. Rogers, has declined to comment on anything related to his client's incident within the press. Guyger was a four year veteran of the Dallas CRT (Crime Response Team) Department, joining the force in 2014 in her first job as a law enforcement officer, in the state of Texas. Some of the officer's colleagues and superiors have announced that they believe her version of the events that transpired, and called the shooting, as one put it, "a bad accident."

No, it was not an accident. Botham Jean was enjoying his evening, and was killed in an act of murder by Amber Guyger. In a timeline of events that I, personally, have come to believe as the most likely to have happened, which lines up to the evidence, as well as witness testimony, I find it likely that Officer Amber Guyger was once again, somehow disturbed by a series of noises she beieved to be coming from Jean's apartment unit. I find it highly possible, that she, still in uniform from her shift, went down to the unit to confront Jean, and hopefully intimidate him by sporting an officer's outfit. Jean, after answering the door, quickly shut her down, and shut the door in her face. This, could be when Guyger pounded on the door, and screamed "open up! Let me in!"

Flabbergasted that he would ignore an officer's illegal commands, she grew enraged, drew her service pistol, and opened fire. It appears to be a crime that equally holds up a charge of second-degree murder. I personally believe, that Guyger went to Jean's door not with the intent to cause him any harm, however, once he scoffed at her attempts to intimidate him, that is when she decided to kill him.

One Dallas Police Officer announced that Guyger was not intoxicated at the time of the shooting, and that she held a good reputation as part of the Southeast Patrol Division's Crime Response Team, of which she was a member. "They go out and arrest the most dangerous people in the city," said the official, who requested to remain anonymous, because he did not have the authorization to speak to the press about the case, "You've got to have your head on right You've got to be brave, dedicated, and hard-charging. She was all of those things."

Another incident within Guyger's past as a law enforcement officer has come into the public eye since she killed Jean; an incident only last year, in May 2017, when she was involved in yet another shooting. A man by the name of Ulvado Perez was being detained, when Gugyer claimed the thirty-year-old man with a lengthy criminal record grabbed at her service taser. In a quick response, Guyger brandished her weapon, and shot Perez in the stomach, piercing his abdomen. This time, the victim survived the incident, and a grand jury declined to indict her.

The classified official also said, that Guyger had no complaints filed against her, accusing her of violating a person's civil rights; the official also said that the length of the shift she had worked that day played a key factor in the shooting. "You cannot have people working that hard, and not have a mistake, and it can be life-threatening mistakes."

Even if that may be so, that doesn't mean that Botham Jean should be shrugged off as an accident. There needs to be consequences for Guyger's actions that evening.

...

On Thursday, September 13, exactly one week after the young man with a lifetime of potential was torn from our world like a band-aid protecting a fresh wound, only minutes after Jean's funeral at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ in nearby Richardson, Jean's own father, fifty-four-year-old Bertrum Jean, stood in an upstairs dining hall and gym, his worn physique leaning against a set of retractable bleachers.

He was a polite man; hugging those who approaced him, and even gave a sad man's chuckle at certain times. "He just wanted to be with me, everywhere I went," the elder Jean said softly, when recalling his son at the prime age of five. "I think I spoiled him."

Bertrum Jean, who preaches at a Church of Christ congregation, and is employed as a water and sewage inventory supervisor on St. Lucia, stated he understands racial tensions exist in Dallas, as well as the rest of the United States, but isn't quite clear what role it played in the death of his son.

"I believe it may have an isolated incident," he said. "I am not sure what to make of it, but I'm still not fearful. If my other son has to come up here to school, I will send him."

...

Since the shooting, residents of Dallas have taken to the streets to protest their voice, fully legally exercising their First Amendment Constitutional Rights, though it has been reported that nine protestors were arrested last night, on September 16. Activists of justice will continue to fight for Botham Jean, so that he may not become yet another hashtag in a world filled with so much vile hatred.


© Copyright 2018 Andrew Patterson. All rights reserved.

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