DALLAS – The teenager who brought a courtroom and observers around the world to tears when he forgave the former Dallas cop who murdered his brother, Botham Jean, stepped into the spotlight again last week when he accepted an award from a group that trains police officers.
Brandt Jean, 18, received the 2019 Ethical Courage Award from the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration. The Plano-based group said Jean should be admired for the example he set by forgiving and hugging Amber Guyger after she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for murdering his brother.
Jean, who lives with his parents in their native St. Lucia, used the opportunity to tell the officers in attendance at a two-day ethics conference that they could and should do better.
“I want you all to know that I am not a threat, that young black males are not inherently dangerous or criminal,” Brandt Jean said from a podium at the institute. “I implore you to champion policies and procedures that amplify the value of all lives. I insist that you encourage diverse leadership that can model inclusion and restraint.
“Most importantly, I ask that you remember my brother,” he continued. “And when you remember him, I want you to ask yourself what are you doing to ensure there will be no other families like mine — no other little brothers that have to model ethical leadership in forgiveness of a cop whose lack of training and discipline caused them to carelessly take the life of another.”
Guyger, 31, shot and killed Botham Jean on Sept. 6, 2018, inside his apartment at the South Side Flats. She had finished her police shift but was still in uniform when she shot him after confusing his apartment for her own and mistaking him for an intruder, she said at her trial.
The fired officer testified that she heard someone inside the apartment and wanted to stop the threat. When she burst in, the 26-year-old accountant was eating ice cream and waiting to watch a football game.
Brandt Jean said Tuesday that he struggled with accepting the award from the institute that trains officers because he believes a lack of training led to his brother’s death.
He has also struggled with the fame that has come from his words to Guyger in the courtroom two months ago. He has said he didn’t realize the courtroom camera was still on and that his words were broadcast to the world.
“If you truly are sorry,” Jean said to Guyger in October, “I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you.”
He told the convicted killer that he didn’t even want her to go to prison.
“Can I give her a hug, please?” Jean asked. “Please.”
State District Judge Tammy Kemp, who presided over the trial, gave him the OK. The jury was long gone, and so were many spectators who had filled the benches during the trial.
Guyger hesitated for just a moment, and then she rushed toward Jean and wrapped her arms around his neck. He put his arms around her, his hands spread across her back.
Guyger has declined interview requests since beginning her sentence.
Gregory Smith, director of the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration, said he was honored to present the award to Jean for his ethics and integrity.
“Brandt Jean represents the best in us,” Smith said. “Despite an unimaginable loss, he saw the humanity in the person responsible for his brother’s death. He saw her pain and regret, and had the ability to show empathy, caring and forgiveness.”
Waiting for change
After Tuesday’s ceremony, Jean, his sister, Allisa Findley, and his parents, Allison and Bertrum Jean, expressed frustration that they had yet to see any changes made at the Dallas Police Department after the shooting or the trial.
A police spokeswoman said Tuesday that an internal investigation is ongoing and there is no timeline for when it will be complete.
Allison Jean said waiting for change and for the results of the investigation has been difficult. The Jeans are also suing Guyger and the city in federal court.
“It’s time someone speaks out,” Allison Jean said. “We cannot continue to exercise all that grace and mercy and nothing else comes to us.”