The Slatest

Police Search Dallas Shooting Victim’s Apartment for Drugs, Angering Critics

Allison Jean, Botham's mother, embraces a person with curly hair while standing in front of several microphones.
Allison Jean, mother of Botham Shem Jean, is embraced by a supporter after a press conference on Friday in Richardson, Texas. Stewart F. House/Getty Images

The news surrounding the killing of Botham Jean, the Dallas man who was shot in his own apartment last week by a white police officer who claims she mistook his apartment for hers, drew fresh outrage on Thursday night—the same day as his funeral—with a news alert from a local Dallas Fox affiliate:

On social media, people immediately condemned the tweet as an attack on the character of the 26-year-old victim, an attempt to mitigate the officer’s alleged crime or even to justify it. Others, however, criticized law enforcement, which had found the marijuana in a search of Jean’s apartment.

According to the affidavit for the search warrant, which the Fort Worth Star-Telegram obtained and posted online, the judge had authorized a search for evidence that could shed light on the Sept. 6 crime: guns, cartridge casings, blood, and video surveillance. But the judge also authorized a search for “any contraband, such as narcotics.” Critics quickly argued against the relevance of anything that search would turn up.

The officer, Amber Guyger, was tested for alcohol and other substances in her system, police said. The results of that test have not yet been released. As for the 10.4 grams of marijuana found on the kitchen counter of Jean’s apartment, the family’s attorney has argued that its discovery amounts to an attempt to smear the victim, who is unable to give his side of the story.

In high-profile cases of police killings of black men, there are often attempts to portray the victims as violent, criminal, and at least partially responsible for their own killings. Discussion of Eric Garner’s history of arrests and even his weight persisted after his strangling in 2014, for example. And after Michael Brown’s shooting, police and their defenders fixated on his alleged attempted robbery beforehand.

Jean, a naturalized U.S. citizen who grew up in St. Lucia in the Caribbean, attended college in Arkansas, worked at accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCooper, and was known for his singing and leadership in his church, has so far not been as much of a target for posthumous vilifying. Even the most relentless defenders of law enforcement have pointed to the irrelevance of the marijuana in the investigation. But, critics have argued, although Jean may have avoided the oft-leveled racist accusation of being a “thug,” the search for drugs in Jean’s apartment only points to the racism embedded in a system that prioritizes white police over their black victims.

Critics have accused law enforcement of shielding Guyger since the shooting. Some have complained that she has been charged only with manslaughter—though it’s still possible she could be charged with murder when she goes before a grand jury—and that police waited three days to arrest her. Others have complained that the arrest affidavit was written in a defensive, rather than accusatory, tone—a sign that the prosecutors are on Guyger’s side.

Other evidence found in the apartment backs up the officer’s account (though details of her story given to the Dallas police and Texas Rangers differed) that she stood just inside his apartment when she shot, hitting him across the room, police told the Dallas Morning News. Guyger claims that, after a 15-hour shift, she drove home and parked on the wrong floor of the parking garage. When she walked into the apartment building, she went to the correlating apartment one floor above hers and inserted her key. The door was slightly ajar, she said, so when she pushed her key in, the door swung open.

Then, according to her account, she saw the shape of a man in the darkness, thought he was a burglar, gave him “verbal commands,” and fired at him twice, hitting him in the chest, when he did not obey them. The family’s attorney told the press that two independent witnesses heard knocking on a door before the shooting. One said a woman’s voice could be heard saying, “let me in; let me in.”

On Thursday, the day the news from the search of his apartment broke, more than 1,500 people gathered in Texas for the memorial.