Cases of mistaken identity happen all the time. More often than not, the results of these cases are trivial and non-impactful. Unfortunately for the poor individual in this sordid tale, this case of mistaken identity involved a police officer and a deadly weapon.
The incident occurred just before 10 p.m. in an upscale apartment complex just south of Dallas’ downtown area. The victim was sitting at home alone, minding his own business, when he heard something outside his door.
Prior to that fateful night, Botham “Bo” Shem Jean, was a 26-year-old former native of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, living in Dallas. Prior to moving to Texas, Bo had attended Harding University, a private Christian institution in Arkansas. He was the type of man who held tight to his faith.
Bo was a member of the Good News Singers. He loved serving as a song leader in the church and leading worship whenever they asked him to. By all accounts, he was a decent, hardworking man and a fine example to those in his parish.
Around 10 p.m. one night, Bo heard yelling and banging on his apartment door. There’s some speculation about how the person yelling and banging entered the apartment, but shortly after the commotion a female police officer fired her gun into his chest. He collapsed to the ground and the shooter, officer Amber Guyger, called for backup and an ambulance.
What in the World?
As there is little to no evidence as to how or why officer Guyger entered Bo’s apartment, and even less evidence as to why she shot him, police must investigate further as to why this bizarre incident occurred in the first place.
Officers and paramedics arrived. Bo was stabilized and taken to a local hospital. Unfortunately, doctors were unable to save Bo’s life. His heartbroken mother, who was still living in St. Lucia, was informed of his death soon after, but no one could tell her exactly why it happened.
The department questioned the female officer, asking why she had come into the apartment and shot an unarmed man. The answer she gave them was rather peculiar. Officer Guyger claimed she had been returning home from a shift and was alarmed to see a strange man in what she believed was her apartment.
The explanation was peculiar for a few reasons. First, it was on a different floor than her apartment. Second, her key obviously would not have worked in his apartment door. Third, the large, red welcome mat outside the door was something her apartment lacked. All clear indications from the onset that something was wrong.
Of course, it wasn’t until after she fired upon him that she realized the truth and the immensity of what she’d done. The Dallas police department, wanting to remain impartial, set out to discover if this was truly just a case of mistaken identity. Was there more to this tale than meets the eye? The department would have no choice, they’d have to find out for sure.
The department issued officer Guyger a warrant for manslaughter and Police Chief Reneé Hall also requested that a blood sample be drawn. They wanted to obtain officer Guyger’s drug and alcohol levels to make sure that she wasn’t impaired when she fired the gun. A full scale, independent investigation was also launched by the Texas Rangers.
Things Don’t Gel
There were reasons for the Texas Rangers’ involvement. There were a number of things about the case that didn’t quite gel. There was still a good deal of investigation to pursue. In the meantime, the story of Bo’s shooting would have far-reaching consequences and go through a number of twists and turns along the way.
Allie Jean, Bo’s grieving mother, used to speak with her son daily. He would call her in St. Lucia to catch up and see how she was. She had been in New York visiting with her daughter when she received the news and circumstances surrounding Bo’s death.
After college, Bo got a job as an associate in a risk assurance department. He was happy and Allie explained that even though he lived in a gated apartment complex, he trusted everyone. He had no reason to worry about someone knocking on his door, however fervently that knocking sounded. Bo was always friendly, always smiling, and was an all around good person.
Everything Gone Away
“She took away my heart, she took away my soul, she took away everything,” she told NBC News. “He didn’t deserve to die like that. … We were very, very close … We would talk about everything, about politics. Botham loved everyone, and everyone loved him.” This was all corroborated at his funeral by friends and family alike.
Had Officer Guyger shot him on purpose because of some kind of personal vendetta? Had she been inebriated following her shift, or impaired somehow? These were some of the questions Dallas police and Texas Rangers had to answer, but before they could, more questions arose…
Several hours after Bo’s funeral, an official document became public. The document in question described narcotics found in Bo’s apartment as a result of a warrant issued posthumously. It listed several questionable items found in his apartment.
What They Found
The inventory document referenced several items found in the home. These included: two fired cartridge casings, a laptop computer, one black backpack with police equipment and paperwork, an insulated lunch box, one black ballistic vest with “police” markings, 10.4 grams of marijuana in ziplock bags, one metal marijuana grinder, two RFID keys, and two used packages of medical aid.
Now, many of these items are directly linked to officer Guyger’s appearance in the apartment and the shooting itself. The medical aid passages, shell casings, paperwork, equipment, police vests, and her lunch box specifically. Though now that they had found marijuana in Bo’s apartment, some questions had been raised. “I think it’s unfortunate that law enforcement begins to immediately criminalize the victim. In this case, someone who was clearly the victim that has absolutely no bearing on the fact that he was shot in his home,” said Lee Merrit, the family’s attorney following the release of the suspiciously posthumous warrant.
Of course, even assuming that Bo had some small amount of marijuana in his possession at his death doesn’t do anything to change officer Guyger’s story. Her original take is that she simply entered the wrong apartment and thought there was a man in her home come to harm her.
Assassination of Character
Bo’s family lawyers see the release as an attempt to assassinate his character as surely as he himself was allegedly murdered. Those who loved him won’t allow this to stain his reputation. Indeed, considering how virtuously he lived his life, it would be hard to do such a thing.
Officer Guyger has indeed been arrested on manslaughter charges but it remains to be seen if she will see any jail time. That being said, many details of the case remain undiscovered. Time will tell what fresh mysteries this tragic situation has yet to reveal.