You’ve probably heard the tragic story of Botham Jean, an African American man who was sitting in his own apartment, eating ice cream and watching TV when a Dallas police officer shot and killed him.
Amber Guyger, who claims she entered the wrong apartment by accident, believed an intruder was in her home and therefore fired her weapon. And now she’s headed to prison to serve a 10-year sentence.
It’s a story of gun violence. It’s a story of an innocent life lost. It’s a story of a white cop shooting an unarmed black man.
But, as of yesterday, it’s also a story of forgiveness.
Guyger was found guilty of murder by a jury of her peers, and as a result, was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison. But what happened next shocked the courtroom—and the world—as Botham Jean’s brother did the unexpected.
On the witness stand, 18-year-old Brandt Jean spoke directly to the woman who shot and killed his brother. “I don’t want to say twice or for the hundredth time, what you’ve, or how much you’ve taken from us,” he said, slowly, and deliberately. “I think you know that.”
But his next few statements are where the story changes.
Jean then turned to District Judge Tammy Kemp and asked, “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please?”
And after Judge Kemp said yes, he did just that.
A man whose brother—known as a top student, a devout Christian, and a loving family member affectionately called “Bo” was shot and killed while sitting on his own couch—was led by faith to say the words “I forgive you”.
They’re words that escape so many of us on our most painful days. But they’re also words that heal broken hearts, help release some of the hurt, and make room for love to seep back in through the cracks.
Brandt Jean knows the power of that Christ-like forgiveness.
“What he did today, was remarkable, and he did it all on his own,” Brandt and Botham Jean’s mother Allison said. “What Brandt did was to cleanse his heart towards Amber.”
And the story doesn’t end there. Judge Kemp was so moved by Brandt Jean’s gesture that she, too, offered some comfort to Amber Guyger as she received her guilty verdict and 10-year prison sentence.
With tears in her own eyes, Judge Kemp also embraced Amber Guyger, and handed her a Bible.
“Read this,” Judge Kemp suggested, as well as offering this advice: “Forgive yourself.”
Not everyone has come to this place of peace, which is expected, as that timeline is unique to each individual person. Jean’s mother Allison isn’t quite ready to say she forgives as her son Brandt did. Others feel Guyger’s sentence was too lenient.
Either way, Guyger will have many years to reflect on what happened inside that apartment—and the grace extended to her in the courtroom by a grieving teenager; she will be eligible for parole in five years.