The brother of Botham Jean, who was shot and killed by former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, publicly forgave her and asked to hug her in court.
In an emotional scene during the impact statements made in court, Brandt Jean said he forgave Guyger, if she is "truly sorry," saying, “I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you.”
“I am speaking for myself,” said Brandt to Guyger, “but 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.”
“I personally want the best for you,” he added, saying his late brother, Botham, would also want the best for Guyger, which would include her giving her "life to Christ.”
He then twice asked Judge Tammy Kemp if he could give Guyger a hug. With permission from the judge, Brant and Guyger embraced for a long time as she cried on his shoulder.
Following the impact statements, Judge Kemp gave Guyger a Bible (you can see a video of that here starting at 1:55) she kept with her at the courthouse and used every day. Kemp opened the Bible and told Guyger: "This is your job for the next month. Right here. John 3:16." Kemp also embraced Guyger after she first spoke with and embraced Botham's family.
In an interview with Teresa Woodard of ABC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate WFAA, Botham's mother, Allison, said: "If Amber Guyger had spent just 60 seconds engaging Botham, the two of them would have been friends today. Just 60 seconds ... he would have laughed it off with her. She chose to kill him." Allison Jean's full statement outside the courtroom can be seen here.
Earlier this week, a jury found Guyger guilty of murder in the first-degree for fatally shooting Botham Jean last year when she entered his apartment. On Wednesday, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison with the possibility of parole after five years.
Guyger, who was Botham's downstairs neighbor, testified that she entered his apartment by mistake following her 14-hour shift, thinking it was her place and that Botham was a burglar.
During the trial, the jury heard testimony from neighbors about how often they got lost and wound up "on the wrong floor of the South Side Flats where Guyger and Jean lived," The Dallas Morning News reported.
While many viewed Brandt's display of forgiveness in a positive light, others, including Bishop Talbert Swan of the Church of God in Christ in Springfield, Massachusetts, were more critical.
“#BothamJean would’ve never received only 10 yrs if he broke into Amber Guyger’s apt and murdered her,” tweeted Bishop Swan. “Her family would neither have offered #forgiveness nor hugged him. The bailiff wouldn’t have combed his hair and the judge wouldn’t have hugged him and given him a Bible.”
Kyle J. Howard, preacher and theologian with the AND Campaign, took to Twitter to warn about drawing the wrong conclusions from the act of forgiveness.
“Yes, he forgave her and hugged her cuz that’s the kind of Christianity the black church & black Christians have ALWAYS practiced. From forgiving their slave masters to a teenage racist who shot up their church. That doesn’t nullify the pursuit of justice,” he tweeted. “If the only time you wanna praise or affirm the black church is in moments when black Christians are forgiving those who have murdered their loved ones; you affirmations are profoundly disingenuous.”
Others saw the forgiveness Brandt showed Guyger as a positive Christian testimony.
"This is an unbelievable testimony. This man is living out the gospel of Jesus Christ which goes against everything in our human nature. This could only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit and because he absolutely believes he will see his brother again. Powerful!," Hall of Fame NFL coach Tony Dungy shared on Twitter.
Guyger is the first Dallas police officer to be convicted of murder since the 1970s.