Advertisement

Ex-cop who murdered black man receives hugs in court, prompting criticism

Botham Jean’s brother hugs ex-cop Amber Guyger after sentence
WATCH: Botham Jean's brother hugs ex-cop Amber Guyger after she is sentenced to 10 years in prison

It was an unusual scene at the sentencing of a former Dallas police officer who was found guilty of murdering an unarmed black man in his own apartment.

Amber Guyger, the white woman convicted in the 2018 killing of Botham Jean, was embraced not only by her victim’s brother but the judge who presided over the case.

“I love you as a person. I don’t wish anything bad on you,” said 18-year-old Brandt Jean before asking for permission to hug Guyger.

When District Judge Tammy Kemp said yes, Brandt wiped a tear from his eye before stepping off the witness stand.

The two embraced tightly in the middle of the courtroom.

The emotional exchange came moments after a jury sentenced Guyger to 10 years in prison. It took them less than six hours to find her guilty on Tuesday.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Ex-Dallas cop who killed unarmed black man in his own home convicted of murder

During the trial, the basic facts of the shooting were not up for debate.

Guyger mistook Jean’s apartment for her own one September night. She told the court she was returning home from a long shift and, when she found the door ajar, thought she was being burglarized. She walked into the apartment and shot Jean while he ate a bowl of ice cream.

The case sparked widespread attention, with racial tensions at its core. It was one in a string of shootings of unarmed black men by white police officers and went on to spur protests in Dallas and beyond.

During the trial, Guyger sobbed as she expressed remorse.

“I’m so sorry … I have to live with that every single day that I hurt,” she said, trailing off. “No police officer would ever want to hurt an innocent person.”

Amber Guyger sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder of Botham Jean
Amber Guyger sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder of Botham Jean

The case drew newfound attention on Wednesday with Brandt’s impassioned speech.

“I forgive you and I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I’m speaking for myself, not my family, but I love you just like anyone else,” he said.

Brandt told Guyger that his brother would have wanted her to turn to Christ. He said he didn’t want to see her go to prison.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did … I personally want the best for you.”

But that wasn’t the only exchange in the courtroom that day that drew interest.

Botham Jean’s sister, family attorneys and community reacts to guilty verdict of Amber Guyger
Botham Jean’s sister, family attorneys and community reacts to guilty verdict of Amber Guyger

When the emotional trial came to a close, Kemp, who fought back tears during the testimonies, walked over to the Jean family and hugged them.

Then, she walked to Guyger and gave her a Bible.

“You can have mine,” she told Guyger. “I have three or four at home.”

The two murmured to each other for a short while. Kemp reportedly gave a Bible passage to Guyger, who nodded.

The two then embraced.

Video of both unlikely hugs circulated online, stirring mixed reactions.

Many applauded Brandt for his kindness.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said he would “never, ever forget the incredible examples of love, faith and strength personified by Botham, Brandt and the entire Jean family.”

Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley called the moment an “amazing example of faith, love and forgiveness.”

Story continues below advertisement

Meanwhile, critics blasted Kemp, who is black, for her embrace, calling it inappropriate and unprofessional.

“We would be living in a very different world if many of the people who exult in black displays of forgiveness reciprocated that grace and mercy but that’s not reflected at all in our criminal justice policy,” tweeted Adam Serwer, who is a staff writer with the Atlantic. “And it really makes you question what they really find compelling about it.”

Story continues below advertisement

Story continues below advertisement

Others pointed to religion as the thread connecting the unusual courtroom decorum.

Story continues below advertisement

During the testimonies, Botham’s father told the jurors about the tight-knit family and how Botham would call him at home in St. Lucia every Sunday after church to catch up. He said Sundays “have been destroyed” for the family since his death.

“How could we have lost Botham? Such a sweet boy. He tried his best to live a good, honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone. How could this happen to him?” the father said through tears.

At the Jean family’s Dallas church, a video of Brandt embracing Guyger in court drew applause and tears, the Associated Press reported.

While Botham’s brother spoke with sympathy and kindness, his mother expressed rage.

Botham Jean’s mother says Amber Guyger’s sentence ‘time for reflection’
Botham Jean’s mother says Amber Guyger’s sentence ‘time for reflection’

“My life has not been the same … like a roller-coaster. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. It’s just been the most terrible time for me,” she told the court. “I’ve been sick often but I have to try to keep the family together because everyone is in pain.”

She clarified her young son’s actions in the courtroom later, telling CBS News that the hug should not be “misconstrued as a complete forgiveness of everybody.”

She later slammed the investigation into her son’s death and called for a renewed focus on police training in Dallas.

Story continues below advertisement

She said if officers weren’t trained to “shoot to kill,” her son would still be alive.

“There is so much more to be done by the City of Dallas,” she said. “The corruption that we saw during this process must stop.”

— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters