Botham Shem Jean was one of those rare people who is remembered as a universally respected human being. Person after person – whether family members or co-workers or neighbors or former classmates – describe him as a positive, friendly person whose life and successes were just getting started.
However, his life came to a tragic end in a bizarre story that many feel doesn’t add up, and his death has become a rallying cry across the country for those concerned about police-related deaths. Jean, a 26-year-old businessman from a prominent Saint Lucian family, was shot and killed by a female Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger. Authorities say she accidentally went to Jean’s apartment, thinking it was her own.
On November 30, 2018, Guyger was indicted on a murder charge. That charge, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said, requires an element that the person “intentionally and knowingly” committed the crime versus doing it recklessly, CNN reported, quoting Johnson as saying, “At the moment of the shooting it was a knowing … offense.” Guyger’s lawyer insists the shooting was a “true mistake,” according to CNN.
The Dallas Police Department identified the police officer as Amber Rene Guyger, who has been on the force for four years. You can read more about Officer Guyger here. Guyger was arrested by the Texas Rangers in Kaufman County, Texas on the evening of September 9, 2018, and is being accused of manslaughter, jail records show.
The Dallas Police Department announced on September 24, 2018 that it had fired Guyger.
Kaufman County Jail online records show that Guyger was being held on $300,000 bail, which she then posted.
Here’s a close up of her mugshot:
The arrest affidavit alleges that Jean’s door was unlocked, and it was dark inside when Guyger entered it. She allegedly thought he was a burglar when she saw a person in the dark, shooting Jean a single time in the chest. The Dallas Morning News reported that she had just worked a 15-hour shift, had parked on the wrong floor of the parking garage, and was one floor up from her actual floor.
However, a search warrant in the case offers a different narrative: It alleges that Guyger was trying to get her key to work when Jean confronted her at the door. “A neighbor stated he heard an exchange of words,” the warrant alleges, adding that the officer “possibly believed” Jean was “an intruder.”
Botham Shem Jean, a recent college graduate known for his leadership and singing voice in church, was originally from the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia, and, according to their Facebook comments and tributes, he was the pride of his family, a young man who came to America to study accounting and for whom great things were expected.
The cop wasn’t at her apartment door; she was at Botham Jean’s, police acknowledged in a statement. He had done, literally, nothing wrong, and was simply inside his own apartment minding his own business. Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said at a press conference early on that investigators are working to obtain an arrest warrant charging the officer with manslaughter.
The officer worked in patrol. Hall said her department requested the Texas Rangers conduct an independent investigation into the shooting. Hall said that, when officers first responded to the call, they believed it was an “officer-involved shooting,” but the circumstances changed as more details were revealed, creating, “a very unique situation.” She said, “We have ceased handling it under our normal protocol as an officer-involved shooting.”
Botham Shem Jean, whose nickname was “Bo,” comes from a prominent family in Saint Lucia. According to St. Lucia Times, Jean was the son of Allison Jean, described as “former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and sustainable Development” and Bertram Jean, who was a store supervisor for Water and Sewerage Company Inc., known as WASCO. His uncle, Ignatius Jean, is “Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association Inc. (CAWASA) and former government Minister and Parliamentarian,” St. Lucia Times reported.
On LinkedIn, Botham Jean described himself as an “aspiring young professional” who was “engaged in developing a career built upon integrity, dedication and relationships, leveraging useful technologies to gain an understanding of and add value in a range industries, striving towards leadership in my career, my community and society.” He was working in Dallas as a risk assurance associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers, according to his LinkedIn page. In college, he was president of a Young Leaders group.
Alyssa Kinsey, who was Jean’s neighbor in the apartment complex where he was shot, and who heard the gunfire, told Heavy in an interview that Jean was a good person through and through.
“He was really just as great as all the stories say….. a huge bright smile, kind, smart, respectful, genuine… I’m just at a complete loss,” she said.
A former classmate who attended college with Jean in Arkansas, Landis Tindell, told Heavy in an email that he was a “great leader on our campus.” Tindell explained, “He was a campus leader. Very active in leading worship and campus student government. I don’t think there was a student on campus who didn’t know Botham. He was always friendly, always smiling, and just all around a great person.”
The Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings, pledged on Saturday, September 8, 2018 that justice would be served.
“Botham Jean was exactly the sort of citizen we want to have in the City of Dallas,” the mayor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “A professional … a believer in his church, a neighbor to his friends. A man that always had a smile on his face. And for that reason, this is a terrible, terrible thing that has happened. Not only has he lost his life, but we’ve lost a potential leader for this city.”
However, since Guyger’s arrest, the lawyer for Jean’s family has raised a series of questions about law enforcement’s handling of the death. For example, he questioned why authorities conducted a search warrant of Jean’s apartment, revealing that he had a small amount of marijuana, an effort that attorney Lee Merritt argues was designed to “smear” the reputation of Jean, whose death has been decried by religious leaders in Dallas and others throughout the country.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say the Police Officer Was in Full Uniform When She Mistakenly Approached the Apartment of Jean, Whose Neighbor Calls Him a ‘Genuinely Great Man’
According to the affidavit, Botham Jean’s apartment number was 1478 and Guyger lived one floor below him in apartment 1378. The apartments are “in most ways identical or extremely similar to the exterior surroundings, structure, and description of each other,” the document says.
The affidavit says that Jean was home alone when a uniformed Guyger, who had just ended her shift, arrived at the complex and parked on its fourth floor, which corresponds to the floor Jean lived on, not Guyger. Guyger “entered the building and walked down the fourth floor hallway to what she thought was her apartment,” the affidavit says. “She inserted a unique door key, with an electronic chip, into the door key hole.”
However, the door, “which was slightly ajar prior to Guyger’s arrival, fully opened under the force of the key insertion,” the document contends.
After the door opened, “Guyger observed that the apartment interior was nearly completely dark. Additionally, the door being opened alerted Complainant Jean to Guyger’s presence. Believing she had encountered a burglar, which was described as a large silhouette, across the room in her apartment, Guyger drew her firearm, gave verbal commands that were ignored by Complainant Jean,” the affidavit alleges.
As a result, “Guyger fired her handgun two times striking the Complainant one time in the torso,” according to the affidavit, which says that Guyger entered the apartment, calling 911 and requesting police and EMS and provided first aid to Jean. She turned on the interior lights while on the phone with 911. Upon being asked where she was located by emergency dispatchers, she returned to the front door to observe the address and discovered she was at the wrong apartment,” the document alleges.
Guyger then called 911 from her cell phone requesting an ambulance and police to the location. Jean was transported to Baylor Hospital, where he died. Guyger remained at the scene and told the responding officers and 911 operator that she thought she was at her apartment when she shot Jean, according to the affidavit. Guyger “believed she was in her apartment and confronted by a burglar when she fired her handgun, striking and killing him,” the document says.
As noted, the search warrant provides a somewhat different narrative, accusing Guyger of shooting Jean after he confronted her at the door while she tried to get her key to work.
Dallas police previously released basic details of what occurred in a news release. “On September 6, 2018 at about 9:59 p.m., an off duty Dallas Police officer called police dispatch and said she was involved in a shooting at the apartments located at 1210 S. Lamar,” they wrote.
Naomi Martin, a Dallas Morning News reporter, wrote on Twitter that her source also says that Guyger did not know Jean before the shooting and had moved into the upscale apartment complex only the month before.
“Preliminary information suggests that the officer arrived home in full uniform after working a full shift,” police said initially. “The officer reported to the responding officers that she entered the victim’s apartment believing that it was her own. At some point, the officer fired her weapon striking the victim. Responding officers administered aid to the victim, a 26-year-old male, at the scene. The victim was then transported to the hospital and pronounced deceased.”
A woman posted Instagram videos that she said show the shooting’s aftermath. You can learn more about those videos here.
The Jean family attorney has also revealed that there were noise complaints made by downstairs neighbors about Botham Jean’s apartment. Guyger lived below Jean.
Meanwhile, members of Guyger’s family have denied being racist, with her brother-in-law, Noe Garza, saying hand signals he was making in a photo with Guyger were not white power symbols.
Police Chief Renee Hall said at a press conference that a blood draw was taken from the officer to test for drugs and alcohol. The results of the test are not yet publicly known.
Jean was initially identified as the shooting victim by the Dallas Morning News and relatives on social media. The Morning News asked the police early on whether the officer mistakenly thought Jean was an intruder – in Jean’s own apartment.
“I won’t go into that information right now,” Dallas police spokesman Sgt. Warren Mitchell said to the newspaper. “I mean, we have not interviewed her, and like I said this is just a preliminary statement. We still have a lot to do in this investigation. … This is all we can give you at this time.” Hall said at a later press conference that the officer still had not been interviewed. However, the affidavit released after the Texas Rangers took over the case appears to be largely based on the officer’s account.
Hall told reporters “it’s not clear what interaction was between them, but at some point, she fired her weapon, striking the victim. She called 911, officers responded in about four minutes. Dallas Fire Rescue also responded and took Mr. Jean to the hospital, where he later died. At the very early stages of this investigation early indications were that we were dealing with an officer-involved shooting. However, as we continued the investigation it became clear we were dealing with much of what appears to be a very unique situation. Therefore, we have ceased handling it under our normal officer-involved shooting protocol.”
Hall said the fact the officer was off duty changed it from being an officer-involved shooting investigation.
“At my request we are in the process of obtaining a warrant based on the circumstances that we have right now,” Hall said. “We have also invited the Texas Rangers to begin an independent investigation. They have just arrived a moment ago and they are currently being briefed. I’ve spoken with the Jean family, his sister, Alissa, specifically. My condolences have been given to them and we have reassured them that we are working diligently and we have invited an outside agency to investigate this. Right now there are more questions than we have answers. We understand the concerns of this community and that is why we are working as vigorously and meticulous as we can to ensure the integrity of this case and the integrity of the department is upheld. In doing so, we hope to bring understanding and clarity to the family.”
At a press conference, which you can watch above, Hall said, “My condolences to the Botham Shem Jean family. We want to be and we will be as transparent in this investigation as we can be.” She added, “We ask that you, this community and the media work alongside of us in this process.” Hall spoke only briefly at the press conference and took limited questions, walking out as angry reporters yelled questions at her, saying they had more to ask about what is a “big story.” She ignored their questions and left the room. The press conference had already been delayed about an hour when she came out.
A family member of Jean told St. Lucia Times that he lived in a gated community in Dallas and alleged that “the police officer’s key was found in the lock of the door of the apartment belonging to the deceased, after she tried unsuccessfully to open it.” Hall said at the press conference she does not know if the officer knew Jean.
Caitlin Simpson, a 20-year-old resident of the apartment building, told the Dallas Morning News she heard a lot of noise Thursday night. “It was, like, police talk: ‘Open up! Open up!'” she told the newspaper.
Alyssa Kinsey, Jean’s next-door neighbor who was so close she shared a wall with him, wrote on Facebook, “This happened in the apartment next to me, to my very kind and friendly neighbor. I am absolutely heartbroken. Please, please keep his family in your prayers and send love and light their way. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain they are in.” She shared a GoFundMe page for Jean’s family. It reads, “We are mourning the loss of our brother Botham Jean. He was a great Christian example and an inspiration to us all. We are asking for donations to cover funeral arrangements, his family’s travel expenses, and anything else they may encounter. He will be missed.”
Kinsey told The Dallas Morning News, “It’s like Fort Knox in here. It’s so safe.” She told the newspaper that, although the apartments look alike, Jean had a rug outside his door. “I didn’t hear any knocking or yelling beforehand, just the shot,” she said to the newspaper. “And then the woman’s voice calling 911.”
Kinsey provided a photo of the outside of Jean’s apartment to Heavy:
In the interview with Heavy, Kinsey said, “I was talking to my boyfriend, heard a shot, then some sort of commotion. Sounded like yelling/running/some loudness so I jumped up, ran to the door, looked out the peep hole, didn’t see anything at that moment but I could hear a woman calling 911 and hyperventilating.”
Kinsey told Heavy that she saw the female officer pacing in the apartment hallway. She heard the officer say the apartment number and the words “was shot,” but she adds, “she was pacing away from me at that point.”
After hearing the shooting, Kinsey says, “I then posted on nextdoor app as a warning. I did not hear pounding or yelling before the shot. These halls are echoey so I feel like I’d hear it but maybe not.”
She added, “I’ve never seen a cop on this part of our floor” before. “This is just so so awful. I want justice for him and his family,” said Kinsey, who added that she had never seen the officer before.
She told Heavy that she tried to step outside her apartment “once the cops started swarming but they told me to stay inside.” She heard people saying things like, “We have an officer working on CPR” and “Where’s the stretcher.”
Kinsey added, “I heard the lady cop say ‘I need to call my partner’ and another cop said ‘okay go but don’t tell him anything.'” She called what happened an “absolute tragedy” and characterized the story as “bizarre.”
She said of her neighbor, “He’s the last person I could ever imagine this happening to.” To show what a good person Jean was, she told the story about how she was struggling to move furniture in the apartment complex hallway one day. “But it proved to be a challenge and he came down the hall and saw me struggling, kind of laughed at how ridiculous I looked, but he swooped in and helped me get everything in my place and made sure that was all of it out of my car,” she said.
Jean, she said, was the only neighbor who said “hi” when she moved into the apartment complex. They spoke about their jobs and Jean “always had a good attitude” and characterized his current job as a “stepping stone.”
“He helped me move furniture, we drank beers on the porch together, talked about living in Dallas and traffic and life, him and my boyfriend talked and argued sports. He always had a huge smile that would light up a room” and always made sure to say, “Hey, how are you?” recalled Kinsey.
“He was a genuinely great man.”
2. Botham Shem Jean’s Uncle Called It ‘the Worst Day of My Life Thus Far’ & Church Officials in Arkansas Remembered His Beautiful Singing Voice & ‘Spirit of Joy’
Jean’s mother Allie Jean told NBC News: “He did no one any wrong.” The shooting occurred at an upscale apartment complex called South Side Flats not far from downtown Dallas, NBC reported.
“Somebody has to be crazy not to realize that they walked into the wrong apartment,” Allie Jean said. “He’s a bachelor. Things are different inside,” Allie Jean told NBC. His sister, Alissa Charles-Findley, wrote on Facebook: “Just last week I was thinking of what to get you for your birthday, now I have to go pick out your casket. You will always be my baby brother. I love you with all of my heart Botham Shem Jean. Until we meet again my love.”
Botham Shem Jean’s uncle Earl Jean, who is a coach from Saint Lucia, posted a photo tribute to his deceased nephew on Facebook.
“My heart goes with you my boy…never thought this day would come ,wanted to be there for you always my boy …how can this nasty world take you away from me ….this is the worst day of my life thus far….uncle loves you so much …there goes Mr.botham shem Jean….iam lost for words…part of me has left !Gone with the Angel’s ….lord keep me sane,” wrote a heartbroken Earl Jean.
Jean’s family members repeatedly expressed pride in him on Facebook. On a photo of Jean wearing a suit and tie, another relative wrote, “This is my work of art – dedicated, committed, hard-working, intelligent – Vote Botham for President!”
General Manager of WASCO Edmund Regis told St. Lucia Times that the company was extending sympathies to Jean’s family, saying, “this is undoubtedly what can only be described as a difficult time of bereavement for the Jean family.”
In Arkansas, while attending college, Jean was involved in the College Church of Christ. “He led singing often in HU Chapel and at the College Church of Christ in Searcy,” Glenn Dillard, Harding’s assistant vice president for enrollment management, said to The Christian Chronicle. “He had a beautiful voice.”
Tracy Moore, a preacher who knew Jean through church, told the Christian news site, “I used to go to the Caribbean Lectures and met him there. An impressive young man. A powerful singer and always a spirit of joy that flowed from him.” Christian Chronicle reported that Jean and his family are involved in Church of Christ in Saint Lucia as well. He was known for running the technology for a series of church lectures in the Caribbean.
He appears in this video of a church lecture.
3. Botham Shem Jean Studied Accounting at a Christian College in Arkansas & Was a Leader on Campus Who ‘Really Stood Out’
On Facebook, Botham Shem Jean wrote that he had studied “accountancy” at Harding University. He also studied at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, went to St. Mary’s College, and was from Castries, Saint Lucia. At St. Mary’s, Jean studied accounting and mathematics, and was the Young Leaders president and on the debate teams and in the choir.
His Facebook page said that he had lived in Searcy, Arkansas. He wrote in 2013, “I miss St. Lucian food :( I really want a breadfruit, dasheen, greenfig and saltfish now.”
The posts from Arkansas, which are a couple years old, include updates from Jean that say things like this, “8 hours of accounting…coming right up.” Harding University is a private college in Searcy, so it appears Jean was there to study accounting several years ago. A former classmate confirmed this in an email to Heavy, writing, “I went to Harding with Botham. I can confirm he graduated from there and was living in Dallas. A great leader on our campus and will be missed.”
The university released a statement to the Dallas Morning News that read, “We’re all deeply grieved. He was just one of those people who really stood out, with his voice and his leadership.” Arielle Butler wrote on Twitter, “I was lucky enough to attend the same university as Botham and he was an awesome guy and leader. No one in the world deserves to meet their end in this way.”
Harding University wrote on Facebook, “The Harding family learned this morning of the tragic death of 2016 alumnus Botham Jean, who was shot in his home last night. Botham frequently led worship for chapel and for campus events such as Uplift and Lectureship, and this morning, President Bruce McLarty shared a favorite memory of Botham with students in chapel: bit.ly/2wPz8Ka. The entire Harding family grieves today for the loss of Botham, who has meant so very much to us. Please join us in praying for Botham’s friends and family and for all who were touched by his extraordinary life.”
He graduated from college in 2015, news reports say. “I always saw Botham around campus. He always wanted to lead in chapel in whatever way he could. He was always so nice and so kind. He was definitely a light at Harding – one who I could never forget. Prayers for his family and friends,” wrote Amy Johnson on Twitter.
Another man who knew Botham in college wrote Heavy, “Botham was a member of social club Sub T-16, one of the oldest and largest social clubs at Harding University. Their signature pose is the thumb at the chest… From what I’ve been told, he was loved by everyone in his club, and a fair portion of the current professors at Harding are Sub T-16 alumni.” He did not want his name printed so as to keep the focus on Jean.
Botham Jean’s page also says he worked for a company named Harris Paints. More recently, according to his LinkedIn page, Botham Shem Jean was working for the major consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas, Texas, as a “title risk assurance experienced associate.” He had held the position since July 2016, his page says, but had worked for the company since 2015.
“This is a terrible tragedy. Botham Jean was a member of the PwC family in our Dallas office and we are simply heartbroken to hear of his death,” PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a statement.
4. Jean’s Uncle Wrote About His Nephew, ‘the World Is at Your Door’ & Jean’s University Says He Was a Worship Leader on Campus
Botham Shem Jean’s uncle Earl commented on his thread three years ago that the future looked very bright for Jean.
“Good looking and intelligent young Jean….the world is at your door…But everything in Gods timing. ..always proud of you!!” wrote Earl Jean on one of Jean’s Facebook photos, showing him smiling in a business suit, as many of his pictures did.
On Twitter, Jean’s cover photo reads “Resist.” His tweets are private. “IzaLucian 🇱🇨 — Can do anything, Can’t do everything,” his profile reads.
His mother, who still lives in St. Lucia, wrote, “Looking good my son!” Other comment threads similarly filled with flattery. “Look up Man in the dictionary and this photo will be next to it,” wrote one friend. “Presidential photo,” wrote one.
“This boy is and WILL ALWAYS BE a STAR!!!” wrote a woman named Desi Charles.
Harding University said Jean was a member of the Good News Signers, a resident assistant and an intern for the Rock House campus ministry while at the school. He also was a leader in Sub T-16, a men’s social club. He often led worship at the chapel and campus events.
“At Lectureship one year, I asked him to lead singing one night. Because of the subject, there was a particular old hymn that I asked him if he would mind leading,” Harding President Bruce McLarty said. “He didn’t say anything about not knowing the song, but he had never heard it before in his life. He came up that evening and was just smiling and excited about leading it. He told me he had never heard the song before, but that day, he called back to St. Lucia and asked his grandmother to teach him that old hymn on the phone. So he shared it with us at Lectureship that night, and it was a truly special moment.”
Harding said in a statement, “The entire Harding family grieves today for the loss of Botham, who has meant so very much to us. Please join us in praying for Botham’s friends and family and for all who were touched by his extraordinary life.”
Sophia Pickle, who attended Harding with Jean, told the Dallas Morning News, “He was amazing. He was wonderful. He was every good thing that you can imagine.” She said she remembered attending a Halloween party with Jean. “It’s a Christian school, so we weren’t allowed to dance, we weren’t allowed to drink or smoke. So at this block party, we just had coffee there, then he and I went to McDonald’s for milkshakes.”
She added, “People don’t know the person, so they say, ‘Oh, maybe he did something.’ If he was there in his apartment, then I guarantee he would have been respectful; he would have had his hands up.”
5. The Police Officer Is on Administrative Leave & Many on Social Media Feel There is a Double Standard Because She’s a Cop
According to the Dallas police statement, the officer “was not injured and will be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.” The officer worked for the department for four years, police said in a statement. She had finished a lengthy shift at some point before the shooting after working overtime because she made a late arrest, police said. A written statement from the police department said the officer was “tired” and thought she was in her apartment, but at a press conference, Chief Renee Hall would not confirm that the officer being tired was the reason she went to the wrong apartment.
Hall did not provide any other information about the officer other than saying she is a “Caucasian female” who worked in the patrol division. She was later identified as Guyger.
Many people on social media have expressed outrage over the bizarre circumstances of Botham Shem Jean’s senseless death.
“The tears won’t stop flowing for #BothamShemJean 😔 he was chilling in his own house, minding his business! This officer should be in JAIL!!!!” wrote one woman. “Now in America if a cop mistakenly walks into YOUR home… You will get shot… Because hey… This is ‘merica. #BothamShemJean,” wrote another.
“The Dallas Police Department is conducting a joint investigation with the District Attorney’s Office. This investigation is ongoing and we will release additional details as they become available and it is appropriate to do so,” police wrote.
“Super scary because the police are supposed to protect you and then they come home and, you know, you’re just hanging out in your own house and then they come home thinking they’re home or whatever. I don’t know if she was tired but that’s pretty scary,” Richard Healy Nelson, who lives in the complex, told Fox 4 News.
On social media, people expressed confusion how the officer could have thought Jean’s apartment was her own. “So getting this straight, you ‘accidentally’ walk into someone else’s apt (how do you get in?) shoot them dead, realize then it wasn’t your apt, be like ‘oh my bad’? Y’all had identical furniture & family photos? #BothamShemJean,” wrote one man.
Omar Suleiman, a Dallas-based activist, wrote on Facebook , “You don’t just get to walk in someone’s house, shoot them dead, and say whoops I thought it was my own house. Join us tonight and demand justice for #BothamShemJean.” He added that any other suspect would be in jail.