Rare, powerful example of forgiveness offered in racially-charged murder trial

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By Hannah Hughes —

Hug in the courtroom

The brother of an African American man gunned down in his apartment by a Dallas police woman said he loved and forgave the killer in a dramatic court appearance October 2nd. While the judge wiped away tears, he asked the cop to turn to Jesus and gave her a long hug during the sentencing phase.

It was a powerful moment of reconciliation in a racially-charged atmosphere that sent goose bumps up and down the spine of the nation.

The extraordinary demonstration of love over hate was a powerful testimony of what Christ can do if our nation will turn to God.

Brother of the victim

“I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail,” Brandt Jean, the victim’s brother, said in court. “If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself: I forgive you. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you. I love you as a person and I don’t wish anything bad on you.”

Brandt then asked state district Judge Tammy Kemp for permission to hug former Dallas cop Amber R. Guyger, 31. The lengthy, emotional hug caused a hush in the room and Brandt’s father gave him a thumbs up. His mother was left in tears.

Guyger walked into Botham Jean’s apartment Sept 6, 2018 in the South Side Flats and shot and killed him while he was eating ice cream and watching TV. Guyger said she thought she was in her own apartment, and believed she was confronting an intruder. She said a similar red doormat at the door contributed to her confusion. After a long shift, she parked her car on the fourth floor instead of the fifth.

Murder victim

Because Guyger was white and Brandt was black, the case was seen nationally as another in the long line of instances of racial injustice, but Brandt upended the polarizing narrative by injecting an unforeseen dose of Christian forgiveness in a scene of outrage and grief.

Judge Kemp also gave Guyger a Bible and praised Brandt for his gesture, saying to the mom: “Thank you for the way you modeled Christ.”

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least 28 years, a symbolic sentence reflecting Botham’s would-be 28th birthday. Guyger was off duty and in uniform when she arrived at what she apparently thought was her apartment. She failed to follow police procedure, which mandates she first call for a backup in a similar situation. Guyger was fired and then put on trial.

Amber Guyger on the stand

The tragedy provoked turmoil in the black community. The relatively light sentence for the ending of a man’s life prompted chants of “no justice, no peace” outside the courtroom.

Both Brandt and Botham had been raised in the Church of Christ in the St. Lucia area. Both men have Biblical middle names. The victim’s father said his son, an accountant, was a good Christian.

“He was such a sweet boy,” Bertrum said. “He tried his best to live a good, honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone. How could that happen to him?”

Ex U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley hailed Brandt’s bold demonstration of faith as an “amazing example of faith, love and forgiveness.” Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot referred to the embrace as “an amazing act of healing and forgiveness that is rare in today’s society, especially for many of our leaders.”

Hannah Hughes studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.

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