By Mike Talavera
This past Thursday night at South Side Flats apartments in south central Dallas, an off-duty police officer invaded the home of Botham Shem Jean, a black immigrant from St. Lucia, and proceeded to shoot and kill him.
As of this writing, the exact circumstances of the murder are unclear. The Dallas Police Department has offered the explanation that the officer mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, a claim which has outraged the masses who have repeatedly referred to it as “bullshit” on social media.
A Facebook live video posted from inside the South Side Flats apartments shows that the locks on the doors flash green if the correct key is inserted and red if the key doesn’t fit. Witnesses also told the Dallas Morning News that they heard police yell “Open up! Open up!” but this testimony has been disputed by Jean’s next door neighbor.
Regardless of the details, the murder adds to the list of police brutalities against black people in the United States and brings to the fore once again the acute oppression faced by that internal colony.
Dallas Police Chief Ulysha Renee Hall said at a press conference on Friday, “At the very early stages of this investigation — initial indications were that they were what we consider circumstances of an officer-involved shooting. However, as we continued this investigation it became clear that we were dealing with what appears to be a much different and very unique situation.”
To the masses, it is in no way a unique situation. If the suspicious account about the mistaken apartment turns out to be false, it will not be the first time that police have lied to cover up a murder of a black person. In one example of many, Chicago police had testified that officer Officer Jason Van Dyke had acted in self-defense in 2014 when he murdered Laquan McDonald, but video evidence revealed that McDonald’s killing was unprompted and brutal, with Van Dyke shooting him sixteen times.
It will also not be the first time police invaded the home of a black person before killing them, as Maryland police did in 2016 when they barged into the apartment of Korryn Gaines, who had armed herself in order to protect her then five-year-old son before police shot and killed her.
In addition to the list of police invasions of black people’s homes, in 1969 the United States government raided the home of black revolutionary Fred Hampton before killing him. In that case, police also claimed self defense and a jury ruled it a justifiable homicide, but a break-in at a Pennsylvania FBI office years late revealed that the Bureau had targeted Hampton for assassination as part of COINTELPRO.
The immediate history of the city of Dallas also weighs on Jean’s murder. His killing took place a little more than two years after Micah Xavier Johnson, a black Afghanistan War veteran, shot and killed five Dallas police officers and injured nine others. The ambush happened at the end of a march protesting the then-recent police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castille in Minnesota.
A candlelight vigil for Jean was held at Dallas Police Headquarters on Friday night and a Gofundme campaign has already raised over $20,000 for his family. In a Facebook post, Jean’s uncle mourned the loss of his nephew.
“My heart goes with you my boy…never thought this day would come ,wanted to be there for you always my boy,” the post said. “How can this nasty world take you away from me ….this is the worst day of my life thus far….uncle loves you so much …there goes Mr.botham shem Jean….iam lost for words…part of me has left !Gone with the Angel’s ….lord keep me sane.”
The outrage of the masses in response to the killing has so far taken mostly the form of online speculation as to why the police officer shot him. It will be up to Dallas organizers and revolutionaries to transform this passive reaction into an active movement that can seek people’s justice for Jean.