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Another Innocent Black Man Dead in Police Shooting

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Botham Jean leading worship at a university presidential reception in Dallas

The mother of Botham Shem Jean, a black man who was gunned down at his home by a white Dallas police officer suggested that her son might still be alive if he were white. "She took away my soul, she took away everything," she said Friday. "He didn't deserve to die like that. Somebody has to be crazy not to realize that they walked into the wrong apartment, " she said.

The incident happened when on Thursday, Amber Guyger, 30, a four-year veteran with the Dallas Police Department, allegedly went into the wrong apartment believing it to be her own and upon finding Jean there believed him to be an intruder. Police said it wasn’t clear what interaction ensued between the officer and the victim, but the officer decided to fatally shoot Jean. The officer then called 911, and firefighters transported Jean to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

A prayer vigil was held on Friday night at the Dallas West Church of Christ. Dozens of people including Jean’s family members and friends attended the vigil.

During the vigil, Simba Musarurwa — a friend of Jean's — described him as a kind, charismatic extrovert.

"He was a very uplifting kind of person," Musarurwa recalled. "He was probably one of the most likable people I had ever met."

Family members and friends described Jean as a devout Christian and a talented singer. His uncle Ignatius Jean said the slaying left relatives devastated and there were more questions in the case than answers.

"You want to think it's fiction ... and you have to grapple with the reality," he said.

Jean attended a private Christian institution in Arkansas called the Harding University and was a member of the university singing group called Good News Singers. He worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as an associate in its risk assurance department, the company said.

There had been an outcry from Jean's family and the public over the fact that Guyger had not been arrested for days after the shooting. 

Guyger was finally arrested on Sunday in Kaufman County and admitted to the Kaufman County Jail at 7:20 PM. “She has been charged with manslaughter,” Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Lonny Haschel said. 

Her bail had been set at $300,000. By 8:30 PM she was no longer listed in jail records.

Before Sunday's arrest, the family's lawyer, Lee Merritt, said that the lack of an arrest had added to the family's grief.

"We believe the fact that that has not happened yet is a reflection on deferential treatment for law enforcement officers," Merritt said.

It is worth knowing that Guyger has a history with shootings. She shot another non-white man, Uvaldo Perez, on May 12, 2017, while on duty.

According to an affidavit in the case filed against Perez, Guyger was called to assist when police were looking for a suspect. On seeing police officers approach his car, Perez came out of his car and became aggressive with Guyger. When Guyger fired her Taser at Perez, he wrested it away from her. This prompted her to draw her gun and fire, wounding Perez in the abdomen. Perez was then taken to a hospital and survived.

Lamenting the loss of her son Allison Jean said, "I didn't know she was white until now. If it was a white man would it have been different? Would she have reacted differently?"

While we now wait for justice, there are many questions that need to be answered:

1. How can a police officer not know a neighbor who lives so close that she mistook his apartment for hers?

2. How did she enter another apartment?

3. How could she not recognize that it was not her apartment even after entering it?

4. Botham Shem Jean was no street urchin. He was highly religious, educated and worked for one of the Big Four auditors. He certainly cannot be believed to have acted aggressively towards a police officer, who though was off-duty but still was wearing a police uniform. So, what was the need to shoot him fatally?

Or, was it really a racially motivated shooting? At least that is certainly what it appears to be now.

Author: Pradeep Banerjee