When Botham Jean was killed by Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger, endless questions were raised regarding how it happened. People wondered how someone could possibly mistake another person’s apartment for their own - then kill them because of it.
The police responded by criminalizing Jean in his death.
Handling of the initial investigation by police was highly criticized for not being as thorough as many people had hoped. Among the complaints: witnesses at the scene gave statements that contradicted the arrest affidavit. They heard shouting, pounding, and eventually, the gunshots that killed Botham.
As pressure mounted from such suspicion, the Dallas Police Department revealed their finding of marijuana in Jean’s home. Many angrily questioned the relevance of that information, however, which seemed to frame the victim in a negative light.
A similar sequence of events followed the killing of a key witness named Joshua Brown. He was a neighbor to Botham Jean and offered testimony in the case. This was an action prosecutors commended him for taking, knowing others might be frightened by potential police retaliation.
When Brown was murdered, the primary details of who, where, when, and how his killing happened were foggy; thus, many speculated this was a case of police retaliation. This possibility of law enforcement gunning Brown down arose because of the type of testimony Brown offered. He contradicted Guyger’s account of what took place, saying he never heard her ask Jean to show his hands before she shot him.
But again, as pressure mounted, police announced their belief that Brown’s killing was a result of a drug deal gone wrong.
The police allegedly confiscated “12 pounds of marijuana, 143 grams of THC cartridges and $4,000 cash” from Brown’s home. They also claimed they determined what happened so quickly based on numerous tips, but that’s still not adding up for people who don’t trust the police.
ABC reports that “the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund asked for an independent investigation into Brown's death, calling it ‘deeply alarming and highly suspicious.’”
The mayor of Dallas, Eric Johnson (who is Black), took to Twitter to defend the police against what he dismissed as a conspiracy theory of sorts, saying, “I trust the Dallas Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into the death of Joshua Brown. Until we know more about this incident, I encourage everyone to refrain from speculation.”
But, as research shows, to justify police killings, Black victims are regularly portrayed as criminals participating in “bad behavior” that led to their murder.