Botham Shem Jean analyzed risk for a living at a global auditing firm. For someone in his line of work, the evening was shaping up to be as risk-free as it gets: Alone, in his one-bedroom apartment one block from the Dallas Police Department headquarters.
Fresh from work, he had texted his sister his evening plans: Watching a football game on TV, the Eagles versus the Falcons. He texted a friend, apologizing for not going out with her the weekend before. Mr. Jean, 26, was from the island-nation of St. Lucia. He had a big smile, and was a big eater, winning a meat-lovers’ contest at Big Chef Steak House back in the Caribbean. He still had his ticket for a free meal on his next visit, his prize after eating a two-pound steak in one sitting.
Unit 1478 on the fourth floor of the South Side Flats apartment complex was an 800-square-foot bachelor pad: dishes piled up in the sink, with pancake syrup, dish soap and other belongings adding to the clutter on the kitchen island. It was the evening of September 6. His 27th birthday was three weeks away.
In a matter of hours, Mr. Jean would be dead. A white off-duty police officer who lived in Unit 1378 — directly below Mr. Jean — claimed that she mistakenly entered the wrong apartment after returning home from her 14-hour shift and believed Mr. Jean, who is black, was an intruder. Officer Amber R. Guyger, 30, fired her service weapon twice, striking him once in the torso.
He was later pronounced dead at a hospital, his death now the center of a mystery that has angered and puzzled Dallas and beyond.
The racial profiling of black men and women by white police officers put new phrases into the American vocabulary — driving while black, walking while black, shopping while black. The shooting of Mr. Jean seemed to demand its own, even more disturbing version: being at home while black.
The fatal shooting has become the latest, and most bizarre, confrontation between an unarmed black man and a white officer, angering many who say they simply do not believe the officer’s account. In a city with a decades-old history of racial divisions, the case has again heightened tensions. Protesters chanted and disrupted a City Council meeting on Wednesday, and threats against the police have poured in. Officers have said they believe Officer Guyger’s version of events, while many in the black community — and many white residents as well — do not. City officials and other leaders have been caught in the middle.
“This is the worst sort of situation, because we all expect to be safe in our own homes,” Michael S. Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas, said in an interview. “Everybody is heartbroken. Everybody wants the same thing — let’s get the answers. This is what the mother said to me. I was sitting there talking to her Saturday morning. And she said, ‘I’m not angry, but I just want to know why this lady shot my son.’”
Existing while black is a fatal offense in America.
There's no way this was justified, despite the Dallas police leaking a story that marijuana was found in Botham Jean's apartment after the shooting, because of course we have to have a "he's no angel" defense of the cold-blooded murder of a black man who lived alone minding his own business because maybe the cop who lived in the apartment below him thought his TV was too loud.
If you are black in America, every day is a risk.