Today Amber Guyger was found guilty in the murder of Botham Jean here in Dallas. While we can’t know for certain what transpired that night, the evidence against her was damning and her conviction gave hope, not only to Jean’s family, but also to the African American community at large.
Guyger parked on the wrong floor of the apartment complex and claimed to use her key to open the door of the apartment below hers. She also claimed when she encountered Jean in the apartment she screamed at him to stop and raise his hands. Guyger stated he was advancing toward her as she called out.
I think most of us have, at one time or another, made the mistake of trying to enter the wrong apartment, or get into the wrong car. But, in Guyger’s case it just didn’t add up. How did her key work to open his door? If he was advancing toward her, as she claimed, how is it the gun fire trajectory tests indicated he was crouching at the time she shot him? It just didn’t add up.
The reaction to the verdict was one of shock, even among those seeking a guilty verdict. This is a time when racism is rampant and cops across the country have gotten away with shooting young black men who are simply minding their own business. The activist community here was on high alert, expecting the need to take to the streets in protest. Instead, there was a victory and one less corrupt cop on the streets. The sigh of relief is almost audible in the community.
There is no real justice here. Botham Jean is no longer with his family, no longer looking forward to a long happy life. Amber Guyger forfeited her life in the moment she decided she could take the life of another person. No one wins. But, there are the seeds of hope buried within the tragedy.
Guyger will be held accountable for her actions. This sends a clear message to the police forces that the senseless brutality born of fear and hate must stop. Twelve men and women spoke for the nation today, putting those who would sow this chaos on notice. We will no longer stand for this. We will no longer stand and watch our black brothers and sons be slaughtered for the color of their skin. We will no longer allow the uniform to hide what’s ugly and demand respect simply because one wears it. Respect must be earned by everyone. It is not something to be handed out with the badge and gun. It is handed over when a good cop stops to help an elderly woman with car problems. It is earned by the officer who finds a few minutes out of his busy day to talk to the youth hanging out in the street. Not because they might be doing something wrong, but because he recognizes their need to be doing something and believes he can be one person to make a difference.
Some day soon, we want to be able to tell our children, “if you’re lost find a policeman”, rather than, “if you find a policeman, get lost.”
Thank you to those who held Ms. Guyger accountable for her actions. This is what might wake the rest of the nation up and push police forces across the nation to rethink how much they will tolerate from their officers.