Christian Chronicle

Guilty and forgiven

Botham Jean’s brother extends grace to fired officer convicted of murdering his loved one.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

SEARCY, Ark. — A stunned silence fell over the daily chapel service at Harding University, where police shooting victim Botham Shem Jean, 26, earned his accounting degree and was known for his singing voice and dedication to his faith.

Thousands of the Christian university’s students had just watched a video in which Jean’s younger brother, Brandt, 18, offered forgiveness and an emotional hug to Amber Guyger, the fired Dallas police officer convicted of murdering his loved one.

As voices outside the Texas courtroom chanted “No justice, no peace” in protest of the 10-year sentence that Guyger — who had faced up to 99 years in prison — received, Brandt Jean took the witness stand to make a victim impact statement.

“If you are truly sorry, I know I can speak for myself: I forgive you,” he told Guyger. “And I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”

Related: To Botham Jean’s parents, fatal shooting still feels ‘as if it just happened’

The early October video quickly went viral around the world. Many on social media championed Brandt Jean as an example for all Christians to follow. Others raised concerns that his gesture might distract from the black community’s cries for justice in police shooting cases.

In this small Arkansas town, about 370 miles northeast of Dallas, Harding President Bruce McLarty — who knew Botham Jean well — has given periodic updates in chapel and prayed for the family repeatedly since the 2016 graduate was shot to death on Sept. 6, 2018.

Guyger was off duty but still in her Dallas police uniform when she entered Botham Jean’s apartment that night, thinking it was her own. She told jurors she shot him when she mistook him for a burglar.

“I ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself,” she said during the trial.

When McLarty saw the video of Brandt Jean’s act of grace toward Guyger, he knew he wanted students to see it.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the November print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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