When Botham Jean was shot and killed inside his apartment by Dallas Police Office Amber Guyger on September 7, it sparked national outrage — and rightfully so. Guyger’s defense that she accidentally entered the wrong apartment and Jean failed to follow her verbal commands is a woefully inadequate justification for using deadly force. It took several days to charge Guyger with manslaughter, and many have questioned whether the Dallas Police Department is going too far to protect one of their own officers.
Tonight, new developing news gives additional weight to that question. A story posted by the Dallas Fox affiliate announced, “DEVELOPING: Search warrant: Marijuana found in Botham Jean’s apartment after deadly shooting.”
— FOX 4 NEWS (@FOX4) September 13, 2018
As the story notes, several search warrants were signed by judges and executed a few hours after the shooting:
The search warrant executed in Jean’s apartment at South Side Flats specifically sought fired cartridge casings, fired projectiles, firearms, ballistic vests, keys, evidence of blood, video surveillance systems, and contraband such as narcotics and other items used in criminal offenses.
The inventory return yielded:
2 fired cartridge casings
1 laptop computer
1 black backpack with police equipment and paperwork
1 insulated lunch box
1 black ballistic vest with “police” markings
10.4 grams of marijuana in ziplock bags
1 metal marijuana grinder
2 RFID keys
2 used packages of medical aid
Let’s be very, very clear about something: whether or not Jean was using or possessing drugs is not relevant under the facts of this case as we currently know them. Guyger’s defense is that she went into the wrong apartment, thinking it was hers, not that she believed there was some sort of crime or dangerous situation happening inside Jean’s apartment and she needed to intervene.
So why was the warrant issued to include searching for drugs? Collecting the fired cartridge casings and other evidence directly related to the shooting makes sense. Investigating the personal life of a victim — who, again, Guyger has made no claims was doing anything illegal or dangerous to justify her entering his apartment — seems not just irrelevant, but potentially an attempt to distract or smear his reputation.
“I think it’s unfortunate that law enforcement begin to immediately criminalize the victim — in this case, someone who was clearly was the victim that has absolutely no bearing on the fact that he was shot in his home,” said Lee Merritt, attorney for Jean’s family. “I would love to see more information coming out about the warrants executed on the home of the shooter who lived just below him. I haven’t seen any of those. And particularly for it to be on this day the day that we remember and celebrate him… to see the common assassination attempt on the victim that we often see in law enforcement involved shootings.”
Regardless, Texas is a state that has not legalized marijuana, but has reduced penalties for low levels of possession and support for additional reforms has been growing even among Republicans. There is absolutely no justification for using deadly force against Jean even if Guyger had actually witnessed him lighting up a joint. It’s not justifiable to forcibly enter someone’s residence over suspicion of a nonviolent misdemeanor.
But again, he was just a guy in his apartment alone.
I highly encourage you to read David French’s excellent analysis at National Review, “The Worst Police Shooting Yet.” French raises a number of questions about Guyger’s conduct and claimed defense, as well as the decision to only charge her with manslaughter so far. This truly is a very troubling case — and the news about this search warrant brings up more troubling questions.
Why was his apartment searched for drugs?
Has Guyger’s apartment been searched? Has her car? There are other search warrants still under seal that haven’t been released. Did the search warrants of Guyger’s property include drugs?
These questions deserve answers. Not just for the family of Botham Jean, but for the people of Dallas who deserve to know how their justice system is operating, and for a country that needs to have faith in law enforcement.
As French so aptly put it:
We ask police officers to be brave. We ask officers to face a much higher degree of danger than civilians. We ask them to show restraint even in the face of provocations and tense confrontations. There are countless among them who do all we ask, and more. But we also ask something else: that police officers be subject to the very laws they’re sworn to enforce.
That’s where the system has failed in all too many cases, wounding a family that’s already suffering and breaking the public’s trust each time.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.