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On September 6th, 26-year-old Dallas resident Botham Jean was shot dead in his home by an off-duty police officer and resident of the same apartment complex, Amber Guyger. Officer Guyger has since turned herself into police, claiming that she confused Jean’s apartment for her own, and mistook him for an intruder.
But in the aftermath of the tragic murder, Dallas police have exemplified the same prejudiced attitudes and actions that led to the officer-involved killing of Jean, Philando Castile, and countless other black and brown Americans.
According to a report from local Fox News station KDFW, on September 13th, the same day as Jean’s funeral, Dallas PD executed a search warrant on Jean’s apartment, and subsequently released a report that detailed how police found 10 grams of marijuana inside the home.
Outside of the fact that officers sought and served a search warrant at the victim’s home instead of the assailant’s, the dissemination of the information about cannabis found in the house has drawn intense scrutiny from the Jean family lawyer, concerned citizens, and politicians alike.
“They went in with the intent to look for some sort of criminal justification for the victim,” Lee Merritt, Jean’s family attorney told USA Today. “It's a pattern that we've seen before... We have a cop who clearly did something wrong. And instead of investigating the homicide — instead of going into her apartment and seeing what they can find, instead of collecting evidence relevant for the homicide investigation — they went out specifically looking for ways to tarnish the image of this young man."
As soon as KDFW first posted a report of the search warrant findings on their Twitter page, politicians and pundits from both sides of the aisle began expressing outrage, criticizing the DPD and hypothesizing about further potential police misconduct.
Who found the marijuana? Was it planted after the fact? That’s a frequent tactic in NYC. https://t.co/USLEajMbDZ
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) September 14, 2018
#NEW @BetoORourke mentions #BothamJean shooting. He asked how an unarmed black man can be shot in his own apartment by a police officer. He sharply criticized the fact that courts released info that marijuana was found in his apt. That brought the crowd to their feet. @CBSDFW pic.twitter.com/7SVYrixlJd— Jack Fink (@cbs11jack) September 14, 2018
Joining the chorus for justice in Jean’s case, Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, released a press statement denouncing the criminalization of cannabis and the Americans that use it.
“Over half of all Americans have consumed marijuana at some point in their lives and to pretend in any way the possession of a plant that is objectively safer than alcohol or tobacco provides legitimacy to his extrajudicial execution is disgusting and egregious,” Altieri wrote. “Whether or not the victim possessed marijuana is irrelevant to the case and a sad attempt to slander an otherwise innocent person. Botham Jean and his family need and deserve justice, not a pathetic attempt at a smear campaign.”
Despite changes in Guyger’s original story and witness accounts disputing some of the officer’s sworn testimony, Guyger has been charged with manslaughter instead of murder, and was able to turn herself in for the crime three days after the fact, with no SWAT team or federal agents sent out to apprehend her. For Merritt, the lawyer representing Jean’s family, the attempts to sweep his client’s killing under the rug are, sadly, yet another example of America’s status quo.
“We’re still dealing in an America where black people are being killed in some of the most arbitrary ways,” Merritt told reporters on Sunday. “Driving while black, walking while black — and now, we have to add living while black.”
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