Botham Jean was remembered Thursday for his dedication to service, his deep faith, and for having a ready smile and an open heart. He will be buried in Saint Lucia, but the service in Texas was a chance for American friends to say goodbye.
“A friend is the family that you choose. And let me tell you Botham chose everyone,” said his friend Alexis Stossel. “If Botham was in this room, nobody would ever feel left out.”
It was a service filled with music, a fitting tribute to a man who expressed his love of God through song, according to Minister Michael Griffin, who called him “Bo.”
“To know Botham was to love Botham,” said Griffin. “He was the light in a dark room.”
Jean was just a few weeks shy of his 27th birthday when he was killed in his own home by a white Dallas police officer.
That someone like Jean, so gracious and kind, would die in such a way is incomprehensible to the hundreds of mourners who gathered Thursday at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ just outside Dallas.
He studied accounting at Harding University in Arkansas, and moved to Dallas to launch his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
CEO Tim Ryan says the company started a scholarship fund in Botham Jean’s name.
Jean’s friend and business mentor Tommy Bush said he was asked to mentor Jean when he came to Harding University. He said Jean set the highest expectations for himself and worked diligently toward them, but always put God and his family first. Bush said he learned as much from Jean as he taught him over the course of their friendship.
“What was totally unexpected was the tremendous blessing and growth that I experienced when I was supposed to be mentoring him,” Bush said.
Botham Shem Jean got his first name from a British cricket player, his uncle said, and his second from the Bible, after a son of Noah. Ignatius Jean said his nephew loved food and loved cricket, and was a voracious learner.
Ignatius Jean said Botham planned to one day run for office back home in St. Lucia, where he was well known for organizing service projects. Ignatius Jean said his nephew’s death was felt across the Caribbean nation.
“The sound of the gunshots did not have the resonance to be heard on our small island, but its impact was of nuclear proportions,” Jean said. “A nuke had been unleashed on our family, by someone charged to protect and serve.”
Many in Dallas have been frustrated by the pace of the investigation. Critics charge that the officer who shot him has been getting special treatment. There are diverging narratives about what exactly happened in the moments leading up to his death Sept. 6.
Jean’s family and friends question Amber Guyger’s story of mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own. Jean lived on the fourth floor, she on the third. She told police she used her electronic key to open the door, but it pushed open. The room was dark, she saw a silhouette, thought he was an intruder and fired two shots when there was no response to her “verbal commands,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Jean was shot just before 10 p.m. Guyger called 911. Jean later died in the hospital.
“Botham Shem Jean was not a silhouette,” said Dane Felicien, a family friend, at the funeral.
Lawyers for the family say statements to them by witnesses contradict the officer’s story.
They and others yesterday said they expect justice.
“We will not stand by quietly as what we believe to be false narratives that diminish any culpability for the offending officer are advanced,” said Minister Sammie Berry of Dallas West Church of Christ, where Jean was a member. He was flanked by the Jean family and about two dozen African-American faith leaders from Dallas.
“The undeniable reality is that he was slain in his home, where he had the right to be and was abiding by the law,” Berry said.
Guyger was arrested on a warrant charging her with manslaughter three days after the shooting. She posted bond and remains on administrative leave. The Texas Rangers, a state law enforcement agency that took over the investigation from the Dallas Police Department last week, is still investigating. But so is the Dallas County prosecutor’s office. District Attorney Faith Johnson held out the possibility of more serious charges.
The district attorney’s office says there’s no timeline yet for bringing the case to the grand jury.