‘Botham is singing with the angels’: Victim remembered at vigil

Peace — and justice — sought in the police-involved killing of a beloved Harding University graduate.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

DALLAS — Tears flowed Saturday at the Dallas West Church of Christ as hundreds came together for a prayer vigil in memory of Botham Shem Jean, the 26-year-old church member shot to death by an off-duty, uniformed police officer.

As the Dallas resident’s killing refocused national attention on police-involved shootings, the victim’s family and fellow Christians asked God to bring peace — and justice.

The nearly two-hour vigil ended with Allison Jean, Botham Jean’s mother, saying her son “did everything with a passion,” including serving the Lord.

“I can never give up because I know that Botham is singing with the angels, and I want to join that choir. I want to see him. I want to look upon his face,” said Allison Jean, who lives on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where the victim grew up before leaving at age 19 to attend Harding University in Searcy, Ark.

When Botham Jean was born in 1991, his mother said, “God gave me an angel.”

Allison Jean was visiting New York City when she learned of her son’s death. According to authorities, a Dallas Police Department officer — identified late Saturday as four-year veteran Amber Guyger — entered Botham Jean’s apartment about 10 p.m. Thursday, mistaking his home for her own. Details on exactly what happened remain under investigation by the Texas Rangers and the Dallas County district attorney’s office.

On Friday, Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall told reporters that police would seek a manslaughter charge against the officer. But as of late Saturday, no formal charge had been filed, and no arrest warrant had been issued.

Flanked by area ministers and church leaders at a news conference after the prayer vigil, Lee Merritt, an attorney retained by Botham Jean’s family, criticized the delay in taking the officer into custody. Merritt questioned whether Guyger was receiving preferential treatment.

“This family is frustrated. This family is upset,” Merritt said, standing beside Allison Jean as they faced a half-dozen television cameras at the back of the church auditorium.

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This story appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.