A group of African-American pastors gathered on Monday in front of the Dallas Police Department — just a couple of blocks from where an officer fatally shot Botham Shem Jean, 26, inside his own apartment last week.
They prayed for Jean’s family, some of whom have traveled from his homeland of Saint Lucia to Dallas. They prayed for District Attorney Faith Johnson, who has been handed the investigation into Jean’s homicide by the Texas Rangers. They prayed for the Dallas community. And they prayed for the Dallas Police Department.
Monday night, about 200 protestors gathered outside the police department to protest Jean’s death.
The group marched to the entrance of Jean’s apartment complex, the South Side Flats, and took a knee as they prayed.
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“On this spot this place where this brother lost his life up there we understand that this black man mattered,” Olinka Green, an Activist with the North Texas Action Committee said. “Yes, there is anger but the only way we’re going to get through this is we’ve got to love. It’s our duty to fight for our freedom.”
At the prayer vigil earlier in the day, Pastor Bryan Carter, president of the African-American Pastors Coalition, said their lives have been impacted by Jean’s death.
“This young man was living his dream here in Dallas, Texas and was tragically killed in his own apartment,” he said. “We’re here today because as a faith community, we think it’s important to also share the community’s stance that we want justice in this case.”
Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was arrested on Sunday evening and charged with manslaughter. Police have said that Guyger mistook Jean’s apartment for her own and believed it was being burglarized.
Attorneys for the family have questioned why Guyger so quickly resorted to deadly force. Most of their questions had still gone unanswered Monday afternoon, attorney Lee Merritt said.
“We want to ask and demand that justice is ensured,” Carter said. He commended District Attorney Faith Johnson for being open with the community.
But just an hour before Carter held his prayer service — Merritt criticized the district attorney and said that Johnson hasn’t been transparent with the family. He said that when they met with Johnson on Sunday night, Johnson wouldn’t disclose to him and the family that an arrest warrant had been signed for Guyger, 30. At around 7 p.m., he told the news media he was disappointed that Guyger wasn’t in handcuffs.
But she had been arrested about 30 minutes earlier. An hour after her arrest in Kaufman County, Guyger had posted her $300,000 bond and was released from the Kaufman County Jail.
Among the several Texas pastors who prayed in front of the police department Monday was Pastor Ouida Lee of the Church Of The Disciple in DeSoto.
“We pray in the name of Jesus that you watch over the city council as they make decisions,” she prayed. “Watch over the chief of police, Chief Hall today. Lord God, watch over the mayor of this city. We ask that you guide him and his thoughts … bring unity where there is no unity, bring truth where there are lies, Lord God. You know how to bring us together, to walk hand in hand. … If it were our son God, we’d want this city to work together in unity and not see division and not see color but see us as people of God.”
Pastors also prayed for the Dallas Police Department, and for Guyger.
Jean’s death comes weeks after a Dallas County jury found Roy Oliver, a white former police officer in Balch Springs, guilty of killing Jordan Edwards, an unarmed, black 15-year-old. While leaders were relieved by the verdict, Dr. Freddie Haynes said that Edwards is not the token case.
“Last month was cool, but guess what, it’s not a token and we’re not going to rest until justice is served,” Haynes said. “We want this to stop. We really would like to feel served and protected by the blue. That’s what we’re calling for.”
Merritt said they’re planning homegoing services for this Thursday before Jean’s remains are returned to his home of St. Lucia.
Star-Telegram Reporter Prescotte Stokes III contributed to this report.