Worship Leader, Bible Teacher Shot Dead in Home by Police Officer Who Entered Wrong Apartment

The late Botham Shem Jean, 26, and officer Amber Guyger, 30 (inset).
The late Botham Shem Jean, 26, and officer Amber Guyger, 30 (inset). | (Photos: Facebook; Police)

A small Christian college in Arkansas, a church in Dallas and the family of 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean are now mourning after the beloved worship leader was shot dead in his own apartment by an off-duty police officer Thursday.

"I never heard my mother cry like that," 17-year-old Brandt Jean told CNN about how he learned his older brother had died.

Botham was shot Thursday night in his apartment near downtown Dallas by Officer Amber Guyger, 30, who is also a resident in his building.

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A law enforcement official told The Dallas Morning News that Guyger had just ended a 15-hour shift when she parked on the wrong level of the South Side Flats garage where she lived on the third floor directly below Botham's apartment. On Thursday night, she got off on the fourth floor where Botham lived.

She went to Botham's door, which she thought was hers. The four floors of the South Side Flats look the same with concrete floors and tan doors but a light at each door displays the apartment number, the publication reported. Guyger reportedly didn't notice that Botham's door had a red doormat in front of it. Hers didn't have one.

The official told The Dallas Morning News that when Guyger put her key in the door, it was unlocked, and the door opened. The lights were off and she saw a figure in the darkness and thought her apartment was being robbed. She pulled her gun and fired twice, hitting Botham once in the chest. She only realized she was in the wrong apartment after she turned on the lights.

A video taken from outside the building shows Guyger on her phone, pacing back and forth outside the apartment, and crying after the shooting. Paramedics are also shown moving a man on a gurney and performing CPR on him.

She was arrested Sunday on a manslaughter charge, the Texas Rangers told CNN but was released from the Kaufman County Jail on Sunday evening after posting a $300,000 bond.

Botham's family are from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. His mother, Allison Jean, is a former St. Lucia government official who was visiting New York at the time of his death.

"I couldn't believe it when we got that call. It just feels like a nightmare. I wish I could wake up. He impacted the lives of many. I'm getting calls from all over the world. My country St. Lucia is impacted," Allison Jean told NBCDFW.

She also doesn't accept the explanation of how her son ended up dead.

"I don't want to judge her. We are Christians. We forgive. But I need to look into her eyes and ask her why did she do that to my son. She took away my heart. My soul. He didn't deserve to die. The explanation does not make sense," the grieving mom added.

She also wondered if her son's race may have played a role in why he was killed.

"I didn't know she was white until now. If it was a white man would it have been different? Would she had reacted differently?" she asked.

When she called home to reveal the tragedy, it was her younger son, Brandt, who picked up the telephone. She asked to speak to his father alone and that's when Brandt heard his mother cry like he never heard her cry before.

"I still don't believe he's gone, but we have to accept it," Brandt told CNN. "He was really inspiring. He had a positive mind and vibe."

Botham graduated in 2016 with a degree in accounting and management information systems from Harding University, a private Christian school in Searcy, Arkansas.

University officials said in a statement that Botham frequently led worship for chapel and campus events.

"At Lectureship one year, I asked him to lead singing one night. Because of the subject, there was a particular old hymn that I asked him if he would mind leading," the school's president, Bruce McLarty, recalled. "He didn't say anything about not knowing the song, but he had never heard it before in his life. He came up that evening and was just smiling and excited about leading it. He told me he had never heard the song before, but that day, he called back to St. Lucia and asked his grandmother to teach him that old hymn on the phone. So he shared it with us at Lectureship that night, and it was a truly special moment."

The school's student publication said he was a member of the acapella group Good News Singers, the Harding University Rugby Athletic Club and men's social club Sub T-16.

"Botham was a spiritual leader in Sub T-16. He was very passionate about his relationships and friendships. He was a great student," Steve Lake, assistant vice president of advancement and Sub T-16 sponsor told the publication. "People that knew him, he touched their lives ... he embraced life fully, he pursued excellence. For those that knew him, they are heartbroken today."

A candlelight vigil will be held in his honor on Monday night.

At the time of his death, Botham was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas where he was recently hired after an internship with the company, his family told CNN. The company said it was also "heartbroken" by his death.

"This is a terrible tragedy," the professional services and auditing firm said via Twitter. "Botham Jean was a member of the PwC family in our Dallas office and we are simply heartbroken to hear of his death."

At Dallas West Church of Christ where Botham was a worship leader and Bible teacher, congregants struggled to come to terms with his death.

"I'm feeling numb. I have anger right now. I'm frustrated, just knowing who he is. The way he died is not fair," Jessica Barry whose father, Sammie Barry, is a minister at the church, told CBS.

"Bo was an outstanding young man. He was an outstanding Christian. He was having an impact. We're definitely going to miss him," said Minister Berry.

"I don't think you could find a better person, when you look at the life he lived, the contributions he made, the passion that he had for the church and anything that he did. He always wanted to do his very best," the minister added.

Botham's brother said he will always remember him for the great advice he gave.

"Mainly, I will remember his advice," Brandt said. "I would do stupid stuff at times and he would tell me what I needed to hear, even though it might hurt me, even though I might cry. He was real. He was down to earth."

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