By Holly Williams

Elm Staff Writer

When a cop commits a crime, why aren’t they treated as a criminal?

On Sept. 6, Amber Guyger, an off-duty Dallas officer, entered Botham Shem Jean’s apartment and shot at him twice, killing him. Jean was a St. Lucia native and recent Harding University graduate. He was also a Black American.

Guyger alleged that she mistook Jean’s apartment, which was on a different floor, as her own. She found the door ajar and chose to enter the darkened apartment. After assuming Jean was a burglar who ignored her “verbal commands,” Guyger fired her weapon.

However, witnesses have disputed her claims. There are reports of Guyger shouting “let me in,” which would indicate that the door was not ajar. Furthermore, why would a trained officer enter what she thought was a robbery alone, without calling for aid? There was also a distinctive red doormat in front of Jean’s apartment, unlike Guyger’s. A video circulated online of a resident showing that the heavy fire doors in the complex don’t rest ajar, but slam shut.

It was not until three days after the shooting that the Texas Rangers issued a warrant for her arrest. The warrant was for manslaughter, not murder, despite the discrepancies in Guyger’s story. Even if you believe that Jean’s death was the terrible outcome of a mistake, there’s no doubting that Guyger shot Jean purposefully. Yet, she has the lighter charge, and the possibility of a smaller sentence. She won’t face capital punishment in execution-friendly Texas.

When the police arrived after the shooting, Guyger was still in her uniform. Video footage at the scene shows she was on her phone while a gurney carried Jean away. It’s laughable to think that a regular citizen suspected of home invasion would get to walk freely around the crime scene and turn themselves in at their leisure.

Unfortunately, this leeway isn’t uncommon for police who use unjust lethal force. Advocates for police officers will often cite the job’s pressures as a defense for such shootings. This reasoning was similar in Guyger’s case, since she had just gotten off a fifteen-hour shift.

Police hold the power of life and death over the public. To argue they should get free passes just because it’s a hard job makes this power seem like a right instead of a privilege.

In the police report, it’s disclosed that detectives obtained a warrant to search Jean’s apartment for “any contraband, such as narcotics.”

Immediately, Jean, the victim in this situation, is treated as the perpetrator in his death. The district attorneys later disclosed that police found marijuana in Jean’s apartment.

To release information that a homicide victim had marijuana for personal use—as if it somehow justifies his death in his own home—is disgusting. To search his entire apartment for drugs is not probative to determining Guyger’s motives in killing him.

Regardless, not everything found should be released to the public, especially when it has no consequence on what happened and only serves to perpetuate a harmful stereotype upon the victim.

Amber Guyger can take off her uniform any time. If she encounters anti-police bias, she can choose to quit. Even after she kills someone in their home, the media and the colleagues of Guyger will defend her. This bias will cause the investigation to be conducted in her favor. In his death or in his life, Botham Jean had no such option. He cannot choose when or not to be discriminated against as a Black American. He cannot defend himself now against the prevailing racist attitudes that would cite recreational drug use as a reason for his death. It’s time that we stopped making excuses for police who use deadly force without cause. It’s time that we start giving Black victims the same benefit of the doubt.

The Elm

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