Officials still probing police officer's fatal shooting of man in his home she mistook for her own
DALLAS — Investigators are still determining whether an off-duty Dallas police officer, who mistakenly went inside the wrong apartment and killed a man inside, should be criminally charged.
Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said earlier that her department was trying to get a warrant for a manslaughter charge against the still-unnamed officer. But on Saturday, Hall said that investigators needed more time to decipher what they described as an unusual case of police-involved shooting that led to the death of 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean. The officer, a five-year veteran, has been placed on administrative leave.
After her shift ended Thursday night, the officer entered what she thought was her apartment near downtown Dallas. Jean, who lived there, was home. Authorities have not said what they believe transpired inside, only saying that the officer fired her weapon. The officer called 911, and Dallas Fire Rescue rushed the man to a hospital. He died shortly after.
Hall said a different agency, the Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety, is investigating the case. The Texas Ranger Division spoke with the officer and then asked the Dallas Police Department to hold off on obtaining the warrant "until they had an opportunity to investigate some of the information that was provided during that interview," Hall said during a criminal justice panel Saturday.
Though still thin on details, the shooting has raised questions about race and prompted calls for policing reform. The officer is white, and Jean was black. But officials caution the public about reaching certain conclusions when much is still unknown. Hall said she did not know if race played a factor, or whether Jean and the officer knew each other.
"Is this a white on black crime? Yes," state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said at a news conference Saturday.
"Is this a race-related crime? Don't know," he added.
On Friday, reporters pressed the police chief about the officer's mental state when she went inside the wrong apartment - was she fatigued, or under the influence? - but Hall didn't want to speculate. She also did not say where the officer was, or whether she was in custody.
"Right now, there are more questions than we have answers," Hall said. She added that "as we continued the investigation it became clear that we were dealing with what appears to be a very unique situation."
The case was initially being investigated as an officer-involved shooting, in part because the woman was still in uniform; now, the department is trying to get a warrant for manslaughter, Hall said, adding that investigators took a blood sample from the woman to test for drugs and alcohol.
So far this year, at least 694 people have been shot and killed by police, according to a Washington Post database on police-involved shootings. However, those cases involve officers who were on duty at the time of the shootings.
Jean was from Saint Lucia, a small Caribbean island, according to his Facebook page. He graduated in 2015 from Harding University, where he studied accounting and was known for his powerful singing voice, the Christian Chronicle reported. He often led the singing at the university chapel.
Harding President Bruce McClarty remembered how he once asked Jean to lead the chapel in a hymn that Jean had never heard before, according to reporting from the Christian Chronicle. Jean went home and called his grandmother in Saint Lucia; she taught it to him over the phone, from thousands of miles away. When he returned that night, he sang the song with grace and poise, as though he'd always known it.
One of Jean's uncles, Earl Jean, took to Facebook to remember his nephew. Alongside photos of the young man grinning in a suit, and hanging out with his family, clinking glasses in a kitchen, Earl said it was the worst day of his life.
"How can this nasty world take you away from me," Earl wrote. "Lord, keep me sane."
Jean worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas, an international company that does assurance, tax and advisory work for companies around the world.
"This is a terrible tragedy," the company said in a statement." Botham Jean was a member of the PwC family in our Dallas office, and we are simply heartbroken to hear of his death."
Jean's mother, Allison, is a former Saint Lucia government official who oversaw the island's Department of Education, Innovation & Gender Relations as well as the Ministry of Infrastructure, Port Services & Transport, according to reporting from the Dallas Morning News. She was visiting a daughter in Florida when she learned her son had been killed.
"I couldn't believe it when we got that call. It just feels like a nightmare," Allison told NBC News. "I wish I could wake up."
The victim's mother is struggling to understand how the officer couldn't have noticed she wasn't in her own apartment, NBC News reported. Allison said she didn't want to judge the woman who killed her son, but that the police department's vague explanations left her grappling for clarity and comfort. She wondered whether race had driven her to pull the trigger, according to NBC News.
"I need to look into her eyes and ask her why did she do that to my son," Allison told NBC News. "Botham would want me to get justice for him. The state needs to pay for my son."
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawling said Saturday that Botham Jean's family had flown to Dallas. He said he also reached out to the Saint Lucia prime minister to apologize for Jean's death.
Jean, Rawling said, "was exactly the sort of citizen we want to have in the city of Dallas."
This article was written by Lindsey Bever and Kristine Phillips, a reporter for The Washington Post.