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Botham Jean: A Story of Tragedy and Legacy

NBC Dallas logo NBC Dallas 9/23/2019 LARRY COLLINS
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Reporters Larry Collins and Jack Highberger will be the primary team covering the Amber Guyger murder trial for NBC 5. The pair will provide instant updates throughout the trial in a live blog here. A livestream of the trial can be seen on that page and in the video player above.

Botham Jean and Amber Guyger will now forever be linked by a tragic event.

Guyger, a now-fired Dallas police officer, shot and killed 26-year-old Jean in his own apartment in September of 2018. Guyger, 29 years old at the time, said she thought she was at her apartment and mistook Jean as an intruder.

Beginning Monday, a Dallas County jury will decide if Guyger is guilty of murder.

Jean’s family arrived in Dallas for the trial this week and his church family will gather several times before the trial's start to pray for justice.

"At the end of the day that’s really what we want to come out of this trial — Justice for Botham," pastor Sammie Berry said.

While the justice system will deal with the details of his death, Jeans friends are trying to focus on his life.

"We take some form of comfort knowing that we knew his character," said Jeremy Bonner of Arlington, a friend of Jean. "We held his hand. We hugged him."

"He would find a way to connect with individuals," friend, Dyron Jolly of Little Elm said. "That is something that is powerful to be able to do in this day and age."

Bonner and Jolly were a part of the music ministry team with Jean at Dallas West Church of Christ.

"His voice was definitely a gift from God," Jolly said.

"He was one of the worship leaders, but he also led the teaching ministry as well," Berry said. "Young adults have really struggled to come back together after losing him as their leader."

They said Jean had been a true leader for years.

"There’s no replacing a spiritual tip of the spear like Botham," Bonner said.

Jean was born and raised on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

"Botham left St. Lucia about 7 years ago," his mother Allison Jean said in an interview after his death. "He was the top student at his high school."

"Here was a young black man that one day probably would have been Prime Minister of St. Lucia," Berry said.

Jean would come to the United States and attend college at Harding University in Arkansas.

In his fourth year of college, he would land an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas where he would impress. The 6-week internship would soon become a career.

"He took his job very seriously," Allison Jean said. "I told him, he put too much pressure on himself because he would leave work late and he would come home, and he would continue working."

Dallas would become his home away from home and he found a family at his church.

"We were only two and a half years apart and I look up to him like a brother," friend, Zachary Williams of Mesquite said. "Just living on without him has been hard."

Much less is known about Amber Guyger.

According to Arlington Independent School District, she attended several schools in the district including Berry Elementary School, Carter Junior High School and Sam Houston High School where she graduated in 2008.

Guyger was with the Dallas Police Department for four years before the incident.

Now, Jean’s friends work to forgive Guyger for the death of their 'brother.'

"That forgiveness doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences," Jolly said. "God forgives us all the time, but you’ve still got to deal with your consequence for making your decision."

"While what Amber has done is very painful, I truly believe that if she were to walk through the door she would be treated with the utmost respect,” Bonner said. "She would be able to physically touch and feel the love that this congregation would embrace her with regardless of her decision."

"Forgiveness is a journey for everyone," Berry said. "So, each of us have to deal with it in our own special way."

They said his legacy will stretch beyond the walls of their church and around the nation.

"In Botham’s death, he’s had a significant impact on so many people… up to and including Amber Guyger," Berry said. "He really helped her in a way she probably never would have been helped if they don’t meet."

"It helps the whole world to see that not all black men are bad," Berry added. "You can be in the presence of a young black male and he is not going to hurt you."

"Although his death is terrible, and it is traumatic, I think that he was sparked a greater changing in his passing than he ever could in his life," Bonner said.

They said Jean’s death has helped them grow as well.

"We had a racial unity leadership conference here at our building… this lets us know that there are some walls out there that need to be knocked down,” Berry said. “As I put my preaching schedule together, I’m inviting white ministers to come in and speak to the congregation."

Now, days before the trial, they pray for justice.

"I just hope that those who are responsible for making the ultimate decisions in the trial - that they… make the right decision," Jolly said.

The trial is set to being Monday, Sept. 23.

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