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The Killing of Botham Jean and 2 Kinds of Unthinkable

Photo of Daniel McCoyDaniel McCoy | Bio

Daniel McCoy

Daniel is happily married to Susanna, and they have 3 daughters and 2 sons. He has his bachelor’s in theology (Ozark Christian College), his master of arts in apologetics (Veritas International University), and his PhD in theology (North-West University, South Africa). His master’s thesis was on apologetics to atheists, and his doctoral dissertation was on apologetics to Buddhists. In 2014, he co-authored The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw with Norman Geisler. Daniel works as editorial director for the Renew Network. His passion is to help people understand that they can totally trust Jesus. He plays guitar and piano and occasionally enjoys writing songs. daniel@renew.org

I always enjoy a sunny day, but I probably won’t stop and spend much time looking up at the sky. Cloudy, overcast days? You’ll find me looking skyward even less. But on those rare times when the sun rays pierce through the clouds? I will always pause and drink it in.

If I want to watch something uplifting, there’s always Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. If I want something depressing, there’s always CNN and FOX. But on those rare occasions when I see something uplifting pierce through the depressing? When I see a beam of hope blast through the gloom of ghastly news, I will stop and pay attention.

Last year, former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her unarmed and innocent neighbor Botham Jean in his apartment after she mistook the apartment for her own. The trial wrapped up on October 2, 2019. The deeper you dig into the story, the more you unearth two kinds of unthinkable.

First, it is unthinkable that 26-year-old Botham Jean is dead.

Harding University alumnus Botham Jean was an accountant at work and a song leader at church.[1] On a Thursday evening, Jean was in his apartment watching TV when an intruder entered and shot him. The shooter, Amber Guyger, should not have even been on his floor; her apartment was on the third floor, his on the fourth. Jean’s apartment even had a bright red doormat distinguishing his apartment from the others.

Must have been distracted. Indeed she was. Moments before entering the wrong apartment, Guyger had been in a 16-minute phone call with a married fellow officer she had been trading sexually explicit text messages with.[2] And although Guyger had insisted that she shot out of fear, it has been suggested that there may have been darker motives, given a trail of racist texts she had proved capable of.[3]

But equally unthinkable is the way Botham Jean’s brother Brandt Jean responded to Guyger. From the courtroom stand, the brother addressed the killer:

“I don’t want to say twice or for the hundredth time . . . how much you’ve taken from us. I think you know that. 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’re not supposed to do. If you truly are sorry . . . I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you. . . . 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. . . . The best would be, give your life to Christ. . . . I think giving your life would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”[4]

Then he turned to the judge. “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug please? Please.” With the judge’s permission, he embraced the person who had made it impossible for him to embrace his brother again in this life.

For killing Botham Jean, Amber Guyger gets 10 years in prison. Justice is an appropriate and God-ordained response to crime. Unfortunately, in this life, justice always feels multiple steps behind injustice. There are always atrocities that go unpunished and punishments that fall far short of making things right.

Justice is always playing catch up.

But there is a power which can meet the sneer of evil and not blink. A power which can go toe-to-toe with cruelty and not cower. In fact, it’s a power which exceeds the force of evil just as surely as light chases away the dark. Where there is forgiveness and love, the unthinkably evil shrinks like a shadow at noon.

Thank you, Brandt, for piercing the nightmare with light. Thanks for showing us that a hug can be more powerful than hell. You’ve got the nation looking skyward.

 

[1] Bobby Ross, Jr., “Botham Jean’s Alma Mater Pauses to Remember, Pray after Amber Guyger’s Murder Conviction,” Christian Chronicle, October 2, 2019 https://christianchronicle.org/botham-jeans-alma-mater-pauses-to-remember-pray-after-amber-guygers-murder-conviction/.

[2] Bobby Allyn, “Ex-Dallas Officer Who Killed Man in His Own Apartment Is Found Guilty of Murder,” NPR, October 1, 2019 https://www.npr.org/2019/10/01/765788338/ex-dallas-officer-who-killed-neighbor-in-upstairs-apartment-found-guilty-of-murd

[3] Ray Sanchez, “Amber Guyger’s Offensive Text Messages Are Introduced at Her Sentencing,” CNN, October 2, 2019 https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/02/us/amber-guyger-trial-offensive-texts-trnd/index.html.

[4] “’I Forgive You’: Botham Jean’s Brother Hugs Amber Guyger after She Gets 10 Years in Prison,” The Dallas Morning News, October 2, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeESVLQK4hw.