Allison Jean is a mother still in mourning. You can see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice. The CEO of a utility company in St. Lucia, Mrs. Jean presents herself as a consummate professional, eloquently making the case for why it is important to do everything in her power to keep her son Botham Jean’s name alive. “I thought after the protests following his killing, there wouldn’t be any more—couldn’t be any more — but the situation in America seems to have gotten worse. There are so many killings, so many hashtags…” she says as her voice trails off.
Season two of Investigation Discovery’s, IMPACT OF MURDER series kicks off with a heart wrenching two-hour episode, “The Ballad of Botham Jean,” airing on Thursday, September 10 from 9-11 p.m. Jean was shot in 2018 inside his Dallas apartment by white, female, off-duty police officer Amber Guyger. Guyger claimed she shot Botham because she thought she had entered her own home, and he was a trespassing burglar. Like many controversial police killings of minorities, Botham’s murder sparked national outrage. Like many controversial police killings of minorities, the families are left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and to fight for justice for their loved one.
Jean is still bereaved, grieving the senseless murder of her son Botham Jean, at the reckless hands of then Dallas, TX police officer Amber Guyger, who shot and killed Botham, a 25-year-old accountant as he ate ice cream on his sofa, while watching football in his apartment where he paid rent. As many mothers whose sons are the unarmed victims of lethal violence at the hands of rogue police officers who have gotten off with light sentences or avoided charges and prison sentences all together, Allison Jean seems exhausted from the experience that will never end.
She doesn’t agree with Guyger being described as off-duty because, “She was still in uniform and killed Botham with her service revolver,” says Jean. “She was also treated as a police officer. She was even given a 72-hour cooling off period, but she was off-duty?” Jean is clearly tired of the double talk and corruption that is all too common in these kinds of cases. The mothers of murdered children are tired of having to revisit the pain over and over again yet committed to working through their never-ending grief to ensure their child’s senseless murder is not in vain.
September 6, 2020 marks the two-year anniversary of the murder of Botham and as the date nears, Jean becomes anxious and admits the days are difficult. In August, Guyger who received a 10-year sentence for murdering Botham, filed an appeal on the grounds she was sentenced under the wrong crime and was in fact defending herself. Jean is disappointed in Guyger’s appeal. “She still has not taken accountability for her actions. She didn’t appeal the sentence; she appealed the crime. The appeal shows she does not think that she did anything wrong. So, if she believes based on her appeal that she was acting in self-defense, it then turns it around as if it was my son who was the one, she was defending herself against,” she states plainly. “So, the appeal just brings back all the pain, the grief and the anger over what she did to us,” Jean adds. I am very, very disappointed that after she received mercy from my son Brandt, she would still want to turn around and do this.”
Allison Jean, who is still under the care of a therapist because of the trauma over what happened to Botham and her family, does not share her son Brandt’s forgiveness of Guyger. When asked if she still forgave Amber Guyger for killing Botham, Jean strongly stated, “I want to correct that misinformation. My son Brandt offered her his forgiveness and he specifically said he was speaking on his own behalf, not for the family. So, does that answer your question?”
Jean, who is still clearly in shock that something so horrible would happen to her son who did everything right, has channeled her grief into ensuring his name is remembered among the many killed by police. “There are so many names I fear that Botham’s name will not be remembered because there are so many names to call,” she laments. “It is really, really terrible. I watched the March on Washington and they forgot Botham’s name. They called George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Jacob Blake and now the man in Rochester, NY,” she adds. “I am thankful this documentary came about because I fear Botham’s name might be forgotten, but this will help reignite his name, who he was, what he stood for and how he died in everybody’s memory.”
Jean isn’t relying solely on Investigation Discovery to help keep Botham’s name and memory alive; she is also working diligently to ensure this tragedy doesn’t happen again to someone else’s son. On the second anniversary of Botham Jean’s murder, a press conference will be held for a proposed law called the “Botham Jean Law” which will make it a crime for a police officer to turn off body camera or dashboard cameras in order to conceal evidence,” she says. There is currently no law in Texas to fine or prosecute police officers for tampering with evidence by turning off evidence gathering devices. In late July, a grand jury failed to charge Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association for turning off cameras in the vehicle where Guyger sat after killing Botham. It was also revealed during Guyger’s trial that text messages and phone calls made following the shooting between Guyger and police officers, one of whom was her boyfriend, were deleted. Jean believes not having a law like this is one of the reasons why Mata was not indicted.
She is also proud of the Botham Jean Foundation, which was started to honor his memory. Scholarships are given out in his name in Dallas and St. Lucia. A thousand book bags with school supplies were also given to children this year in Dallas and St. Lucia. There are also plans to rename the street on which Botham Jean was killed after him. “I thought they wanted to name just the part of Lamar Street where the apartment building sits after him. They want to name the entire six miles of Lamar street Botham Jean Boulevard and that makes me very happy,” she says with pride.
It is at this apartment building Botham Jean was doing what people do every day, relaxing in the comfort of his own home, when he was killed. That’s the part that is so disappointing to Jean who raised him right. “He died in just the same way that he prepared himself not to die,” Jean says repeatedly. They talked about the police and avoiding unnecessary interaction. Making sure everything was current including his license and registration. How he should dress and present himself. How to avoid high crime areas in the city. How to conduct oneself as a decent human being.
Botham was an educated, hardworking, churchgoing young man with dreams of one day becoming prime minister of St. Lucia. “We talked about it being time for him to get married and start a family. He wanted to become a partner at PWC. His entire life was in front of him,” she adds. Botham Jean will never experience any of those things due to the reckless hands with the steady aim of Amber Guyger. Despite all that her family has suffered, Jean does not believe that Black people should avoid moving to the United States despite the police violence against Blacks in the country. Through all of this, she still has hope that things will get better. She still has hope for the safety and happiness of her friends and family members living in the U.S. including her daughter and three grandsons. Another son is now enrolled at Botham’s alma mater. “Where else could one be safer than in one’s home?” she asks. “I don’t know what he could have done to safeguard himself against what happened,” she adds.
Despite the tragedy her family has suffered, they will not be defined or stopped by it. “I walk by faith and I am trusting that my family will be okay” she says when asked how she continues to put one foot in front of the other having experienced what she has over the last two years. When asked what she hopes viewers will get from this ID documentary, she says, “I would like for people to realize that police brutality is real. The color of our skin itself is a threat,” she states.
“I want the documentary to provide a greater awareness and sensitivity to Black lives so that the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ will not be thought of as a cliché but taken with deeper recognition for the importance of equality. We are all one – Black, Latino, White, Asian — and we should be treated as such.”
“The Ballad of Botham Jean,” airs Thursday, September 10, 9-11 p.m. EST on Investigation Discovery (ID). Check local listings for channel information.
Learn more about the Botham Jean Foundation here.
This article was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.
Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter @TheBurtonWire.