Was Botham Jean a victim of innate bias?

Was Botham Jean a victim of innate bias?

Amber Guyger screwed the pooch in the worst possible way and it cost Botham Jean his life and Guyger her future.

On September 6, 2018, Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger headed home after a double shift and pulled into a parking spot on what she thought was the third floor of her downtown apartment complex.

South Side Flats has multi-level parking, enabling residents to park on the same floor as their apartments.  Unfortunately, Guyger had mistakenly parked on the fourth floor, not the third, where she lived.

So began a tragic chain of events, a worst case scenario of unintended consequences.

Distracted, tired and walking along the corridor on the fourth floor, which she believed was the third, Guyger entered an apartment that she thought was her own.

If you’ve ever had to back away from a door to check the number on it or look at your key to make sure you were using the right one, you know that very thing can happen.

In this case, according to reports, Jean’s door was unlocked, which allowed Officer Guyger immediate entry. It also may have set off an alarm in her brain. Why was her door unlocked?

On heightened alert, Guyger entered the apartment and was further unnerved by the presence of a black man.

While the presence of any man might have freaked out the 30-year old white, off duty, police officer, the presence of a black man seems to have triggered all kinds fear, reasonable or not.

Already in state of agitation, Guyger’s fight or flight responses were in high gear.

We will never hear Botham Jean’s version of what he did or said before Guyger fired two bullets into his body.

We do know that Jean was unarmed.  We also know that he was a 26-year old from St. Lucia with a college degree and a bright future at an accounting firm.

It’s also quite likely that he was surprised, frightened and/or angry that a uniformed police officer suddenly appeared in his apartment, uninvited.

At her trial Officer Guyger said that Mr. Jean was moving toward her. The forensic evidence neither refutes nor confirms that. Guyger also said, “I was scared he was going to kill me.”

We have no reason to doubt Guyger’s claims, but the context from her perspective is arguably much different than it was from Mr. Jean’s, each considering the other an intruder.

The facts in this case are not in dispute. The prosecution brought in a red door mat which they say should have alerted Guyger to the fact that she was in the wrong doorway.

They also said that she was distracted by earlier sexually explicit text messages to her married partner.

The one question that may never be answered is what caused Botham Jean, an unarmed black man in his own apartment to appear to Amber Guyger as a lethal threat.

I suppose it’s a form of racism, but there seems to exist in all of us innate biases that help formulate our opinions and drive our actions.

For Amber Guyger on that fateful night, it was a perfect storm of random events that pushed that bias to the forefront and presented Botham Jean as something that he simply was not.

In the jury room, Botham Jean is dead and Amber Guyger’s state of mind as an armed civilian, in his house may not be relevant.  Justice demands its pound of flesh.

For Jean’s death to have any meaning though, we must all examine our own biases.  Are we any different from Amber Guyger?

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