Cries of justice for St. Lucian national killed by white officer

Berthram and Allison Jean at the memorial service.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Cries of justice echoed throughout a memorial service in Brooklyn Thursday night, as Caribbean community leaders and members of the clergy demanded justice for St. Lucian national Botham Shem Jean, who was killed by a white female police officer in his home in Dallas, Tx on Sept. 6.

With Jean’s parents, Berthram and Allison Jean, sitting in the front pew, mourners at the two-hour-plus long memorial service, at the Advent Fellowship of Brooklyn Church, on Bergen Street, reiterated calls for justice in Jean’s case.

“The original sin remains with us in America – of hatred and bigotry,” said US Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, in her tribute. “They could not see their families in Botham.

“This person (Botham Jean’s killer) swore to protect the people,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “We cannot rest — we will not rest — until justice is served.”

Clarke disclosed that she and two congressional representatives from the Dallas area will return to Washington next week “because we cannot take our eyes off these people.

“This in the only way that we can see true justice,” she said. “As we pray, let us continue in the dignity, because we will lead this family to justice.

“I have a good feeling in my heart – but my Lord never sleeps, never slumber – and, at the end of the day, justice will prevail,” she added.

Jean, 26, was shot and killed by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on the night of Sept. 6, 2018 in his own apartment.

Guyger claimed she took Jean’s apartment for her own and entered by mistake.

Dallas police consequently issued a warrant for Guyger’s arrest for manslaughter and subsequently handed the investigation over to the Texas State police, the Texas Rangers, the highest law enforcement authority in the state.

Guyger was charged with manslaughter after turning herself in to the Texas Rangers.

But the Rangers were widely condemned for giving Guyger preferential treatment, including granting the officer the privilege of turning herself in at a jail in a county outside Dallas, where she was booked and released on US$300,000.00 self-bail.

The Brooklyn-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), which has been following Jean’s case closely, has written Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson, demanding that Guyger be charged with murder, “based on the facts and circumstances outlined in an affidavit filed in court.”

Dallas community leaders, as well as civil rights leaders across the United States, have also called for Guyger to be charged with murder.

CGID also condemned Guyger’s “preferential treatment” and questioned “why she was not arrested at the scene.”

Johnson said her office is continuing the investigation and has not ruled out additional charges. Jean’s funeral was held in Dallas, Texas, last Thursday.

In his tribute, at the memorial service in Brooklyn Thursday night, Rickford Burke, CGID’s Guyanese-born president, urged the Caribbean community not to allow Jean’s death “to be in vain.

“We must petition US senators and members of Congress to push for reforms of protocols that authorize law enforcement officers engage in the use of force,” he said. “This is long overdue.

“How many more black men must be killed before we take action?” asked the international law and public policy consultant. “Politicians who sit by and do nothing about the epidemic are equally complicit. We must also hold them to account.

“To Botham’s mom, Allison, your grace, poise, dignity and intelligence have brought refreshing integrity to this tragedy,” Burke continued. “It has inspired us all to stand and fight with you in your quest for justice.

“You’re not alone; we have embarked on this voyage together with you and your family,” he said. “The journey will be long and burdensome. Try not to falter, but be encouraged by the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (slain US civil rights leader): ‘The arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice’”.

Pastor Gilford Monrose – the St. Croix, US Virgin Islands-born director of Faith-Based & Clergy Initiatives, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams – said “America needs to come to a Place of National Repentance,” lamenting the overwhelming and disproportionate number of blacks killed by police officers, of which, he said, hardly any police officer gets convicted.

“It’s good to pray, but we have to get off our knees and walk,” urged Rev. Monrose, lead pastor of Mt. Zion Church of God 7th Day in Brooklyn, whose parents hail from St. Lucia. “If we don’t walk, we will not get justice.

“We have to stand strong,” added Rev. Monrose, who is also president of the 67th Police Precinct Clergy Council in Brooklyn. “Our prayers are with you (turning to Jean’s parents), but we need action.”

St. Lucian Alene Mathurin, who served as liturgist, asked Congresswoman Clarke to continue to demand justice when she returns to Washington, adding: “We’re going to fight for that.

“Shem (Botham Shem Jean) was brave,” she said. “We must be brave enough in asking for justice for him.”

More from Around NYC