Crime

Questions raised after witness in Amber Guyger murder trial ‘assassinated,’ lawyer says

A $100,000 reward is available for anyone who can supply information leading to the arrest and indictment of suspects in the slaying of a witness in the Amber Guyger trial.

Joshua Brown testified in the trial, which ended last week, that he lived in the Southside Flats Apartments, near enough to Botham Jean to hear him sing gospel songs in the morning before going to work.

Brown said he met Jean, 26, in person just hours before Guyger, an off-duty Dallas police officer, shot and killed Jean in his apartment. Guyger was convicted of Jean’s murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Brown testified that he heard two people who sounded as though they met by surprise closely followed by two gunshots. Brown told the jury that he could not make out what was said prior to the gunfire.

Dallas police reported that they found Brown, 28, suffering from gunshot wounds to his lower body about 10:40 p.m. on Friday in the parking lot of the Atera Apartments, located in the 4600 block of Cedar Springs Road.

Dallas Fire-Rescue took Brown to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he died, police said. Witnesses told officers they saw a silver four-door sedan leaving the parking lot at a high rate of speed. Brown was identified by the Dallas County Medical Examiner.

Police said Sunday they have no motive or suspects in Brown’s death.

A tweet from community activist Shaun King announced that business investor Bill Perkins will provide a $100,000 reward to those who come forward with information that leads to the arrest and indictment of suspects in this fatal shooting.

A Crime Stoppers reward of $5,000 is also available to those who furnish information that leads to the arrest and indictment of suspects in Brown’s shooting.

“He was assassinated,” said Lee Merritt, a civil attorney representing the Jean family.

Previous shooting

Brown moved from the Southside Flats apartment building after Guyger shot Jean, Merritt said. Brown was apprehensive about testifying in the Guyger case because he was the victim of an earlier shooting months ago where another man died and Brown was wounded, Merritt said.

Brown was wounded in a shooting outside the Dallas Cabaret strip club in November, the Star-Telegram’s media partner WFAA-TV reported. In that incident, Nicholas Shaq’uan Diggs was killed and Brown was shot in the foot.

A suspect, Kendall Deshonn Morris, was indicted on charges of murder and aggravated assault in the November incident and was released on bond.

The Dallas Morning News, citing an arrest affidavit, reported that Morris was at the strip club with another man who wanted to fight Brown. The two men fought outside the club and when Brown and his friends tried to leave, Morris allegedly grabbed a gun out of a car and handed it to another man, the Morning News reported in December.

Independent investigation requested

When Brown was killed Friday, “nothing was taken from him,” Merritt said. “Someone was waiting for him when he got home.”

Merritt said he has suggested that a law enforcement organization such as the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office or the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the Brown shooting. Another law enforcement agency should conduct the shooting investigation due to the unusual circumstances surrounding the case and the ongoing investigation involving police conduct revealed during Guyger’s trial, Merritt said.

“The [Dallas] police have lost some of the public’s trust because of the things that came out during the Amber Guyger murder trial,” Merritt said. “The Dallas Police Department nor the Texas Rangers should not be doing the investigation.”

Brown’s family and Jean’s family are both shocked and stunned by the shooting deaths, according to Merritt.

“Allison Jean, [Botham Jean’s mother] said this is like seeing Botham killed all over again,” Merritt said.

Merritt had planned to ask Brown to testify in the Jean family’s civil lawsuit against the city of Dallas.

The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund is also asking for an independent investigation into both Jean’s and Brown’s deaths.

Brown was killed two days after Guyger’s 10-year sentence was announced. Brown’s testimony was critical to Guyger’s conviction, according to the NAACP. His testimony established that Guyger, who has said she mistakenly thought Jean was an intruder in her apartment, “did not shout verbal commands or warnings before shooting Botham Jean,” an NAACP news release said.

“The circumstances surrounding the murder of Mr. Brown cries out for answers. Most importantly, it demands an independent investigation of how and why he was killed,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s president. “We urge state or federal authorities to follow the trail of misconduct left by this case and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Brown’s death.

“It is critical to public confidence in the administration of justice that witnesses who speak out against police violence are fully protected. The suspicious circumstances of Mr. Brown’s killing should cause great alarm and demand an immediate and piercing inquiry. We echo Allison Jean’s statement that the ‘corruption we saw during this process must stop,’ and support her request for a comprehensive federal investigation of the Dallas Police Department.”

Neither the Dallas police, Bill Perkins nor Crime Stoppers responded Monday to requests for comment regarding this story. Dallas city and county officials have called for calm and patience as the investigation into Brown’s death progresses.

Dallas police told the Associated Press in a Monday statement that the department had no comment on calls for an independent investigation and that detectives are actively investigating Brown’s death.

“I trust the Dallas Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Joshua Brown,” Mayor Eric Johnson tweeted Sunday. “Until we know more about this incident, I encourage everyone to refrain from speculation.”

Judge Tammy Kemp, who presided over Guyger’s trial, said Monday that she was “saddened” and “stunned” to hear about Brown’s death, adding that “he seemed to be a very compassionate young man and I hate that his life has ended so soon.”

“I think that we need to let the investigation of his death go forward,” Kemp told The Associated Press during her first interview since last week’s verdict.

This story includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

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Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.
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