DFW: Outrage Follows Lenient Sentence in Police Murder of Botham Jean

Photo: Protesters block intersection in downtown Dallas following the light sentencing of former police officer Amber Guyger for the murder of Botham Jean.

By Jennifer Kelly

Last Tuesday morning, a jury found Amber Guyger, a former Dallas Police Officer, guilty of murdering 26-year-old Botham Jean, an accountant and a Black man. On September 6, 2018, Guyger killed Jean, shooting him in the heart after barging into his apartment when she was off-duty.

Despite Guyger’s conviction, an unusual outcome in cases of police murder (especially of Black people), the community’s surprise turned to outrage when, at the sentencing Wednesday, Guyger received only 10 years, despite facing up to a life sentence. She will be parole eligible after 5 years.

Murderer and former police officer Amber Guyger

From the onset of the investigation, Guyger was protected by the Dallas Police Department. She was never placed in handcuffs. She was allowed to walk away from the scene of the murder and go home, only to be arrested three days later, despite admitting in the initial 911 call and in person that she had shot Jean. The original charge in the arrest was manslaughter, based on Guyger’s dubious claim that she had mistaken Jean’s apartment for her own.

“I’m fucked,” Guyger said during the 911 call. “I’m going to lose my job.”

At the trial, racist texts and social media posts by Guyger were shown to jurors. In them, she suggested pepper-spraying a peaceful crowd at a MLK parade, joked about being racist, and said, in reference to working with black officers, “Not racist but just have a different way of working and it shows.”

Justice is not served equally under capitalism, especially in the context of national oppression. Police officers like Guyger, who enforce bourgeois law and order and the subjugation of the Black Nation, receive pity and softened sentences, whereas witnesses to police crimes, especially against Black people, are targeted and punished severely.

The woman who filmed the scene outside of Botham Jean’s apartment after the murder would eventually lose her job and has since been labeled as a “black extremist,” a term that has also been adopted by the FBI as part of their surveillance of Black activists in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Another one of Jean’s neighbors, Joshua Brown, a key witness in the trial who had heard the murder take place and disputed Guyger’s story, was ambushed in a parking lot of an apartment complex last Friday night, where he was shot multiple times and killed.

joshua brown
Joshua Brown during an emotional testimony at the trial. He has since been killed under suspicious circumstances.

Following Guyger’s sentencing, a small group of protesters took to the streets of downtown Dallas, outside of the courthouse, calling the ten year sentence a “slap in the face.” At one point, protesters were able to block an intersection, and when they refused to be moved to the sidewalk, police attacked a Black woman and threw her to the ground before detaining her.

The younger brother of Botham Jean, who is 18 years of age, said after sentencing that he had forgiven Guyger and asked permission to give her a hug, which has since been widely broadcast by bourgeois media. Judge Tammy Kemp, a Black woman, read to Guyger from the Bible before gifting a copy to her and offering her a hug as well.

The bourgeois media has used images of these hugs to frame any protest or anger at the sentencing as “disrespectful to the family,” despite Jean’s mother clarifying in an interview that her son’s hug should not be misconstrued as forgiveness or to represent the feelings of the family. The Dallas Police Department was also able to twist these images to their own ends, tweeting “Botham Jean’s brother’s request to hug Amber Guyger and Judge Kemp’s gift of her bible to Amber represents a spirit of forgiveness, faith and trust. In this same spirit, we want to move forward in a positive direction with the community.”

The masses owe police officers nothing except justice for their crimes against the people, a revolutionary justice that the current system is incapable of administering and only socialist revolution can deliver. Likewise, Guyger deserves the opposite of forgiveness for essentially getting away with murder. “My son was much more valuable than ten years,” said Jean’s mother.

Botham Jean