AP

Forgiveness, anger after ex-Dallas cop sentenced to 10 years

Oct 3, 2019, 6:50 AM | Updated: 8:29 am
Botham Jean's younger brother Brandt Jean hugs convicted murderer and former Dallas Police Officer ...
Botham Jean's younger brother Brandt Jean hugs convicted murderer and former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her after she was sentenced to 10 years in jail, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in Dallas. Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean, an unarmed 26-year-old neighbor in his own apartment last year. She told police she thought his apartment was her own and that he was an intruder. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)
(Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

People outside of the courtroom reacted angrily to the sentence given to Amber Guyger in the death of Botham Jean, believing it was too lenient. But Jean’s brother addressed her directly from the witness stand.

Brandt Jean told Guyger that his brother would have wanted her to turn her life over to Christ, and that if she asks God for forgiveness, she will get it.

“I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you,” he said to the 31-year-old Guyger, before asking the judge, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug?”

The judge said he could, and Brandt and Guyger stood up, met in front of the bench and embraced while Guyger cried. Judge Tammy Kemp also hugged Guyger before she was led from the courtroom Wednesday.

The shooting in September 2018 drew widespread attention because of the strange circumstances and because it was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

Guyger, arrested three days after the shooting and later fired, was convicted of murder Tuesday. The jury, which was largely made up of women and people of color, could have sentenced her to up to life in prison or as little as two years. But prosecutors asked them to send her to prison for 28 years, which is how old Botham Jean would have been if he were still alive.

She will be eligible for parole in five years, after serving half of her sentence.

As video of the dramatic hearing circulated online, critics blasted the judge, saying her hug was inappropriate for the jurist overseeing the case. Meanwhile at a Dallas church where the Jean family gathered to worship and Botham Jean used to lead congregation singing, video of Brandt Jean embracing Guyger in court drew applause and “amens” when showed Wednesday night.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, a former trial judge, called Brandt’s embrace of Guyger “an amazing act of healing and forgiveness that is rare in today’s society … especially for many of our leaders.”

If Jean’s 18-year-old brother “can heal and express healing in that fashion, in his words and in his deeds, I would hope that the greater community, not just Dallas but all of Texas and all of the United States, could gain a message from that,” he told reporters.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson issued a statement saying he would “never, ever forget the incredible examples of love, faith and strength personified by Botham, Brandt and the entire Jean family.”

Dozens of demonstrators marched through parts of downtown Dallas on Wednesday night to protest the sentence. One woman was taken into custody after she appeared to disregard police orders not to obstruct traffic.

Guyger’s attorney had asked jurors to show mercy, pointing to the good she did for people, including some who spoke at the sentencing hearing.

Among them was officer Cathy Odhiambo, who described Guyger as a longtime friend who dreamed of being a police officer when they waited tables at a TGI Fridays. She said the two of them went through the academy and then came through the police ranks together.

“Everybody that knows her knows that Amber is the sweetest person,” Odhiambo said.

Odhiambo, who is black, was not asked about text messages that prosecutors said indicated a lack of sensitivity by Guyger toward black people. However, another fellow officer, Thomas MacPherson, said some of those texts sounded “out of character” for Guyger, whom he described as “someone you could depend on.”

When a sniper opened fire on police during a rally in downtown Dallas three years ago, killing five of them, Guyger was “so brave,” MacPherson said. He said the two of them ran toward the gunfire and helped panicked citizens along the way.

LaWanda Clark, who is black, said was struggling with a crack cocaine addiction when she met Guyger during a drug house bust. She said Guyger, while ticketing her, told her it could be the catalyst for turning her life around. She said Guyger treated her as a person, not an addict, and that she’s sober now.

Jean’s father told jurors about how his son’s death upended his life back in St. Lucia. Bertrum Jean said that after his son left their Caribbean island for college in Arkansas, he would call home every Sunday after church to catch up with the tightly knit family. Now, he said, his Sundays “have been destroyed.”

“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?” the father said, breaking into tears.

After the hearing, Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, criticized the investigation into her son’s death and the police training to shoot to kill.

If Guyger “was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be alive today. He was no threat to her. He had no reason to be a threat to her, because he was in his own apartment,” Allison Jean said.

The basic facts of the shooting were not in dispute. Guyger, returning from a long shift that night, parked on the wrong floor and mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which was directly below his. Finding the door ajar, she entered and shot him, thinking he was a burglar. He had been eating a bowl of ice cream before she fired.

In the frantic 911 call played repeatedly during the trial, Guyger said “I thought it was my apartment” nearly 20 times. Her lawyers argued that the identical physical appearance of the apartment complex from floor to floor frequently led to tenants going to the wrong apartments.

But prosecutors questioned how Guyger could have missed numerous signs that she was in the wrong place. They also asked why she did not call for backup and suggested she was distracted by sexually explicit phone messages she had been exchanging with her police partner, who was also her lover.

___

Associated Press video journalist John Mone and writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas, and writer Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed this this report.

___

Follow Jake Bleiberg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jzbleiberg

Today’s Top Stories

AP

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
6 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
8 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
9 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
10 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
10 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Forgiveness, anger after ex-Dallas cop sentenced to 10 years