The case garnered international headlines.
Amber Guyger, a Dallas police officer, was accused of fatally shooting her 26-year-old neighbor, Both Jean, inside his own apartment. Guyger said it was a tragic mistake. She claimed she’d entered the wrong apartment after work and believed Jean was an intruder when she shot him as he ate ice cream on his sofa.
But during the trial against Guyger, jurors heard testimony that she was “distracted” by an intimate phone call with her partner, with whom she had an on-off sexual relationship.
Ultimately, jurors sided with prosecutors. On Tuesday, they found her guilty of murder.
The following day, Guyger was in court again to learn her penalty — and more bombshell evidence was introduced, including offensive text messages where she appeared to mock black officers and Martin Luther King. After the judge sentenced her to 10 years in prison, she was approached by Botham Jean’s younger brother, 18-year-old Brandt Jean.
“I love you as a person and I don’t wish anything bad on you,” he said as he embraced her for nearly a minute, according to the Washington Post.
It was a gesture that brought many in the courtroom to tears — but it took Brandt and Botham’s mother by surprise. “What he did today, was remarkable, and he did it all on his own,” Allison Jean told CBS News. “What Brandt did was to cleanse his heart towards Amber … I do not want it to be misconstrued as a complete forgiveness of everybody.”
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Others had a different reaction to the hug. Senator Ted Cruz had previously sided with Guyger, saying that many people are “quick to always blame the police officer.” He urged people not to “jump to conclusions” in the case. After the hug, he praised Brandt’s reaction as a demonstration of “Christian love.”
Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted that the hug was “an amazing example of faith, love and forgiveness.”
But others criticized the expectation of forgiveness, saying that while Brandt Jean’s actions were admirable, that sort of reaction should never be expected of victims’ families.
“Black people repeatedly demonstrate an otherworldly beauty in the granting of grace to the undeserving,” tweeted New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow. “But the question remains: where is America’s reciprocity? When are black people, in the wrong and in the vice, granted this grace? When are *innocent* back people granted this grace?”
As others debate the hug, Botham Jean’s mother says she has more important work to do. In the aftermath of her son’s death, she has become outspoken on the issue of police brutality.
In September, Allison Jean told the Dallas Morning News, “I never knew I would find myself in that role, but recognizing what happened to Botham, it has now associated me with persons who have been through a similar fate. I am now serving as an advocate for all these persons. So, for those killed by gun violence, those killed by police brutality, I will speak out.”