Brandt Jean, the brother of slain St. Lucian businessman Botham Jean, offered a hug to former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in a Texas courtroom after a jury sentenced her to 10 years in prison. It was an act of forgiveness that generated headlines all over the world.
Brandt told Guyger that he loves and forgives her and wanted her to turn toward Christ because it’s what his brother would want. “I don’t know if this is possible but can I give her a hug please? Please?” he asked the judge from the witness stand, where he was giving a victim impact statement after Guyger’s sentencing. The judge said yes, and Jean embraced Guyger in a lengthy hug. You can watch the moment on video below. Some people are praising Brandt for his act of forgiveness, but others are criticizing the hug on social media. You can read more about the criticism here.
Guyger was a Dallas police officer when she came home from an overtime shift, opened the wrong apartment door and shot and killed Botham Jean, who had studied to be an accountant and was sitting inside his own apartment eating ice cream and watching television when Guyger burst in. A jury decided her actions amounted to murder, not manslaughter, but could have given her a much longer sentence. Guyger maintained she mistakenly thought it was her apartment and Botham Jean was an intruder; prosecutors argued that she should have known it was not and he was not, in part because he had a bright red floor mat outside his own.
Here’s what you need to know about Brandt Jean:
1. Brandt Jean Told Amber Guyger ‘I Forgive You…I Love You’
The courtroom grew silent as Brandt Jean took the stand. It had already been an emotional day with testimony from both families. This is the statement Jean gave to the court before he asked to hug Amber Guyger:
“I don’t want to say twice or for the hundredth time how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that. But I just…I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past. Each and every one of us may have done something we’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I speak for myself, I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say, I’m speaking for myself…but I love you just like everyone else. And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did, I personally want the best for you. And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but, I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. Because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do and the best would be to give your life to Christ… I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you.”
Here’s the full video of today’s sentencing phase, which includes the Brandt Jean/Guyger moment toward the end.
After Brandt Jean’s emotional statement, and as the courtroom cleared, Judge Tammy Kemp walked down from the bench to meet with Guyger. She also spoke with Jean’s family members. The judge also hugged the former Dallas police officer and gave her a Bible, reading her a passage: John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In Arkansas, while attending college, Botham Jean was involved in the College Church of Christ. Christian Chronicle reported that Botham Jean’s family was 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.
Allison Jean, Brandt and Botham’s mother, praised Brandt on Facebook, writing, “Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6. I’m proud of you my son, Brandt. Your load is lighter. Who feels it knows it. Regardless of the views of the spectators, walk with God always. Forgiveness is for the forgiver and it doesn’t matter what the forgiven does with it. #BelikeBo is being Christlike. #LetitRise.”
2. Brandt Jean Was Only 17 Years Old When His Older Brother Botham Died
Brandt Jean was only 17 when Guyger shot and killed his brother. He previously described hearing his mother cry, telling Fox 6, “I still don’t believe he’s gone, but we have to accept it. He was really inspiring. He had a positive mind and vibe.”
Brandt told CNN that his mother called and asked to talk to his father, but he could hear his mother’s cries, when the family found out Botham had died. “I never heard my mother cry like that,” he said to the cable news network.
His mother had choice words for the Dallas Police Department after the sentencing.
“That 10 years in prison is 10 years for her reflection and for her to change her life. But there is much more to be done by the City of Dallas,” Allison Jean said. “The corruption that we saw during this process must stop. And it must stop for you. Because after now I leave Dallas, but you live in Dallas, and it must stop for everyone.”
She told CBS of Brandt’s action, “What he did today, was remarkable, and he did it all on his own. What Brandt did was to cleanse his heart towards Amber … I do not want it to be misconstrued as a complete forgiveness of everybody.”
3. Brandt Jean Was a Consistent Presence in Court & Press Conferences
Along with his mother, father and sister, Brandt Jean was a constant presence at Guyger’s trial and in press conferences his family held. “He sat with his chin in his hands” when body camera footage showed officer’s trying to save Botham, according to Post-Gazette.
Botham Jean was the middle child of the family. Alissa Findley, his sister, is a decade older. Brandt Jean was a decade younger than Botham. Brandt hugged his sister to comfort her at one 2018 press conference.
Brandt Jean cried at a previous press conference about the shooting.
4. Brandt’s Mother Told Jurors She Was Very Concerned About Him
Due to Brandt’s tender age, his mother told jurors of her worries about how the teen will absorb so much pain and trauma. Allison Jean told jurors she is “very concerned” about Brandt.
On his Facebook page, Brandt Jean wrote that he studied at Leon Hess Comprehensive Secondary School and lives in Castries, Saint Lucia. Family photos are pretty much all that’s on his page. In 2013, he shared a graphic that read, “When you carry a Bible…the devil gets a headache. When you open it, he collapses. When he seems you read it, he faints. When he sees you living it, he flees.” He also shared a photo of a school athletic team.
The entire family is traumatized, Allison Jean said. “My life has not been the same… like a roller coaster. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me,” said Allison. “I’ve been sick often. But I have to try to keep the family together, because everyone is in pain.”
Botham Jean 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.
5. The Botham Jean Family Is Prominent in St. Lucia & Brandt Is the Youngest Child
According to St. Lucia Times, Botham Jean was the son of Allison Jean, described as “former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and sustainable Development” and Bertrum 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.
After Botham Jean was shot and killed, St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet came to Dallas to meet with officials about the shooting. “I would like to have come to Dallas under different circumstances, but I am here today to give my solidarity to Allison,” Chastanet said. “We all in St. Lucia are extremely proud of Botham, what he represented and how he represented St. Lucia.”
Jean’s mother runs the Saint Lucia national Utilities Regulatory Commission. She testified previously in the sentencing phase for Guyger that her son Botham would have been 28 just that past Sunday. She said that he placed 23rd on the entire island growing up so he was accepted into the top high school on Saint Lucia. “He was very active. He was president of his schoolhouse. He was also the leader for several clubs…He started a choir because he loved to sing,” she said.
“I always referred to him as the glue of my three kids,” she said. “…He was always giving advice…” After high school, Jean went to college and worked at a manufacturing company in Saint Lucia at first. However, his desire was to study accounting. “Botham was a very headstrong child,” and he wanted to go to college in Arkansas because it was a Christian University so he could continue his singing there, his mother said.
“He was good with math, good with accounting,” Allison Jean said. He was very active in college, including on the Harding University rugby team. He brought fellow students back to the island to help at-risk boys on mission trips.
Botham Jean’s sister talked about how close her children were to Jean. She treated him like another son. He was a song leader in the church. A video of Jean singing in church was played.
“I want my brother back,” she said. “If I could just continue our last conversation and not let him hang up the phone.”
Bertrum Jean, Botham’s father, told the jury: “How could we have lost Botham, such a sweet boy? He tried his best to live a good, honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone. How could this happen to him? In hindsight — what could we have done? My family is broken-hearted. How could it be possible? We’ll never see him again. And I want to see him, I still want to see him.”
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