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Hours after family members, friends, and others mourned the death of a beloved man, Botham Shem Jean, a warrant and a video were simultaneously released to the public. These releases are calculated and intentional. The media attempts to paint a particular picture that is meant to criminalize the killed and restore the killer.

As for the search warrant, it is the most detailed to date but it is a search warrant of the victim’s home—not the killer’s home. The warrant details what was found in his apartment: a lunch box, two bullet casings, a police backpack, a laptop computer, a metal marijuana grinder, two radio frequency identification keys, two used packages of medical aid, a police vest, and 10.4 grams of marijuana.

The warrant is intended to evoke a response from the reader: “Oh, the marijuana must be Botham’s?”; “Maybe the killing was justified?”; “Maybe he is a criminal?”; “Maybe I shouldn’t defend his death?”; “Maybe this is why he didn’t want an officer in his home?” The warrant is intended to create speculation in order to criminalize Botham.

There are also police items included in that list. We do not know whom the marijuana and grinder belong to. We don’t know for a fact all of what belongs to who yet. But, implicit (and explicit) racial bias immediately places the marijuana and grinder as Botham’s.

Even if marijuana was in Botham’s home, it is completely irrelevant in the case where Botham is killed by a police officer who trespassed into his home. Lee Merritt, Botham’s family attorney, said after the funeral, that this warrant is intended to “tarnish the image of this young man.” This is a recurrence when black and brown people are killed. After their death, the police or authorities provide evidence that creates the perception that their death was justifiable and conclude that the victim seemed to “deserve to die.”

The other release is footage of Officer Amber Guyger being checked into a Kaufman County jail. In this video, she sits down to be booked and seems to cry or wipe away tears. What isn’t in question is why she may be crying. The question is why is this video released for the public to see, but the videos of other criminals being booked are not? Why don’t police release “cry tapes” of other criminals in order to rouse sympathy in the hearts of the public after arrest?

This is a classic smear campaign against the victim by authorities. These two public releases are being used to sway the public from caring about Botham, his family, his friends and instead create suspicion around a young man that has been celebrated by those who knew him best. They are intended to deflect the anger that has been justifiably directed against the officer and the department, and instead create compassion for them.

Media is a powerful tool that has been used time and time again to criminalize people of color. When they demand justice, media releases are often used to perpetuate racial oppression. There is only one victim in this case and it is Botham Shem Jean. There is only one suspect in this case and that is Amber Guyger.

 

An elder at Mercy Street Church in Dallas, TX, overseeing missions and leadership development. Social Media Manager at The Witness BCC.
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