Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who was convicted of murder on Tuesday for the 2018 shooting of Botham Jean in his own apartment, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesda, at a hearing that ended with an unexpected moment of reconciliation, the Dallas Morning News reports.
Guyger, who was off-duty when she shot Jean, said that she had entered the wrong apartment by mistake—her apartment was in the same relative location as Jean’s but on a different floor—and believed Jean, a 26-year-old black man, to be a burglar. Initially charged with manslaughter, she was eventually indicted for murder after a public outcry about the way the Dallas Police Department handled a case implicating one of their officers: Jean’s apartment was searched for contraband, and police let it be known they’d found marijuana there, in what Jean’s family said was an attempt to smear an innocent victim.
The sentencing hearing was unexpectedly emotional, as Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean told Guyger, “If you are truly sorry, I know—I can speak for myself—I forgive you,” saying he did not want her to go to prison and encouraging her to give her life to Christ:
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 that we were not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry, I know—I can speak for myself—I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone could say—again, I’m speaking for myself, I’m not even here for my family. But I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die just like my brother did. But I personally want the best for you. And I wasn’t gonna 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 what—that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be give your life to Christ. I’m not going to say anything else. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.
Then, after asking Judge Tammy Kemp for permission, Brandt Jean embraced Guyger in the courtroom:
In a statement after the sentencing, Botham Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, said Guyger’s 10-year sentence was “ten years for her reflection, and for her to change her life,” before pivoting to criticizing the way the police handled the situation:
But there is much more to be done by the city of Dallas. 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. The contamination of a crime scene that we saw coming out of this case is one that must never happen again. The poor training—or the poor use of what should have been training—is what we see coming out of this case. That should never, ever happen again. And if this was applied in the way that it ought to have been taught, my son would have been alive today. If Amber Guyger was trained not to shoot in the heart, my son would be standing here today. He was no threat to her. He had no reason to pose a threat to her, because he was in his own apartment. In his sanctuary. In the place in which he paid a lot of money to be in. He paid rent to be there. He had every right to be there in whatever state he was in. Yet still, his privacy was violated. She intruded on him. And that was not enough: She killed him. Our life must move on, but our life must move on with change. There’s gotta be a better day, and that better day starts with each and every one of us. The city of Dallas needs to clean up inside. The Dallas Police Department has a lot of laundry to do. The Texas Rangers need to know who’s on board. And every single one of you citizens of Dallas, residents of Dallas, need to know what to do to get your city right.
At a news conference following the trial, Dallas Chief of Police U. Reneé Hall announced an internal affairs review of some of the things uncovered during the trial, including testimony that Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata had tampered with the video camera in a police car so he could speak privately to Guyger on the night of the shooting. At a service Wednesday night at the church Botham Jean had attended, his parents addressed Brandt’s decision to forgive Guyger. “We’re not very surprised, because we know how we raised him,” said his father, Bertrum Jean. Allison Jean explained that forgiveness didn’t mean freedom from consequences:
What Brandt did today was remarkable. It’s more than we have been taught to do. It’s more than we must do. But it’s not for the community to be mistaken by what happened in that courtroom. Forgiveness for us as Christians is a healing for us. But like my husband said, there are consequences that must follow. And it does not mean that everything else that we’ve suffered has to go unnoticed.
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