The family of a 26-year-old man who was killed by a Dallas police officer as he prepared to watch a football game on a Thursday night question why President Donald Trump hasn’t spoken out about the shooting.
Botham Shem Jean’s killing has drawn international attention. His parents — Allison and Bertrum Jean — said on Wednesday that they’ve received support and condolences from citizens across the U.S. and countries around the world.
“It rejuices the pain, but at least we know that we have a lot of people behind us,” Allison Jean said. “What we would like to see is great attention to this case by top government officials in the United States. We have heard nothing from Washington, D.C., and it really gives a feeling that some people just don’t care about lives.”
The White House was not able to be reached for comment Thursday night.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Allison and Bertrum Jean sat down with the Star-Telegram this week to talk about their son.
Botham Jean was killed in his own apartment by off-duty, uniformed Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on Sept. 6. Guyger was charged with manslaughter three days later and released from jail on a $300,000 bail.
Guyger has said she mistook Jean’s apartment at the South Side Flats for her own that night after getting off a long work shift, Dallas police said. Court documents have varied on the story of how Guyger got Jean’s door open.
The Star-Telegram, along with several other media outlets, have requested copies of the 911 call Guyger made after the shooting, along with body camera footage worn by the officers who responded. The Dallas Police Department has declined to release that information and sent the open records requests to the attorney general for final determination.
Guyger was not wearing a body camera. The department said officers leave their body cameras at the department after their shift.
‘Botham was perfect’
Allison Jean said she met with Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson during this week’s visit back to Texas.
“We are comforted that the case is being thoroughly investigated and there is progress in the presentation to the grand jury,” she said. “We will be leaving Dallas with that little bit of comfort, but we know that it’s going to be a long road.”
Some of the family’s questions of what happened that night have been answered, but Allison Jean said “it still sounds very bizarre.”
When talking about Jean, those who knew him bring up his impeccable life. He was college-educated, fully employed and never had a brush with police.
“Even though Botham was perfect, it shouldn’t matter,” Attorney Benjamin Crump said. ”Whoever that person was, if it was a person who didn’t have a college education, a person who didn’t have a perfect history with law enforcement like Botham, you would expect all citizens to be given the courtesy and respect and the humanity by trained police officers.”
An international incident
Botham Jean was a native of the Caribbean island Saint Lucia.
“I think it is a case that is international in nature. That warrants the response from the highest authority of the United States,” Allison Jean said. “We saw vigils in London, in Australia, in Saint Croix. The entire nation of Saint Lucia is behind us.”
St. Lucia is home to more than 178,000 people. When the Jean family got back after the shooting, Allison Jean said people lined the streets. Since then, regular protests have been held.
As the U.S. government remains silent, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, which includes 13 countries, released a statement supporting the Jean family and denouncing Guyger’s actions.
“We wish to make it clear that our small size or perceived ranking in global affairs should not lead to false assumptions or conclusions about the strength of our resolve and determination in the fight for justice,” the statement, released by Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves of St. Vincent and Grenadines, said.
The family’s attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Lee Merritt, also spoke out about the silence.
“The lack of interest by the Department of Justice, the lack of interest by the president of the United States, who speaks on athletes and porn stars and everything else, but here we have this international incident that prime ministers in other countries have spoken out on ... (Trump’s) lack of interest for this very important incident is really evident and it’s deeply troubling,” Merritt said.
“The silence from Washington speaks volumes,” Crump added. “Not even a letter of condolence.”
The Texas senate debate
Botham Jean’s death has been mentioned in Texas politics — including in the first debate between Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Democrat U.S. Rep Beto O’Rouke last month — and his family has noticed.
Cruz was asked why he cautioned O’Rourke and others not to jump to conclusions about Guyger. He said that what happened was horrific, but said it was a mistake for O’Rouke to call for Guyger’s firing.
“We have a criminal justice system ... that will determine what happened that night,” Cruz said. “If she violated the law ... she will face the consequences. ... But without knowing the facts, Congressman O’Rourke is ready to convict her, fire her. It’s a troubling pattern.”
O’Rouke responded by saying that his uncle, who was a sheriff’s deputy in El Paso, taught him what it means to serve.
“With the tragic shooting death of Botham Jean, you have another black man killed in this country by law enforcement,” O’Rourke said. “No member of law enforcement wants that to happen. No member of this community wants that to happen.”
O’Rouke has denounced the shooting of Jean multiple times, including in a clip posted online from a speech given at a Texas church.
In the clip, O’Rouke says, “How can it be in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African-American, in his own apartment is shot and killed by a police officer. And then, when we all want justice and the facts and the information to make an informed decision, what is released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen. How can that be just in this country? How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers? That is not justice, that is not us, that can and that must change.”
Cruz responded by sharing the video on Twitter with the caption, “In Beto O’Rourke’s own words #TXSenateDebate.”
Asked if their son’s death should be seen as a partisan issue, both Allison and Bertrum Jean responded, “No.” It should be an issue of humanity, they said.
“I follow the news,” Bertrum Jean said. “It hurts me. I can recall more than one incident where a white police officer was ambushed. That breaks my heart. Those men have family. They were suffering. They have kids, they have children. I am not in support of that. For me, black lives matter, white lives matter. We have to stop this. It’s not a partisan issue.”
“Botham did not know black, white, Chinese, Indian,” Allison Jean added. “Botham just embraced everyone. I think it is time that we recognize that our actions have far-reaching implications ... every St. Lucian, the entire Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and now people are calling from Dubai, from Australia, to London to Hawaii, all over. Lets look at these implications and see that we are not only killing individuals, we are killing nations.”