There are remarkable moments amid tragedy that restore our faith in humanity.
They prove to us that the human spirit is resilient — that no matter what unthinkable horrors we face, there is hope that we can survive.
There is no greater personification of this than the family of Botham Jean, the innocent young man murdered in his own apartment by a former Dallas police officer who mistook his home for her own. Time and time again throughout this months-long ordeal this year, Jean’s parents — Bertrum and Allison — and his brother, Brandt, taught us that our ability to make it through such trauma can be strengthened by the grace and mercy within us.
For their unwavering poise, fortitude and honesty in the aftermath of a loved one’s senseless death, the Jean family is a finalist for Texan of the Year.
No one who could forget the moment in court in October when 18-year-old Brandt Jean took the stand to give a victim’s impact statement after former officer Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting his brother to death.
We wouldn’t have blamed him for being angry for what Guyger had taken away from his family. Instead, he said he forgave her and asked if he could give her a hug. The world watched their embrace and got a stunning lesson in the power of forgiveness that brought us to tears.
Emotions were understandably high in this community and beyond during this case. That Botham Jean, a 26-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a white officer created a racially charged environment rooted in decades of history in Dallas, this state — and this country.
That emotion didn’t erupt into the chaos experienced by other cities after such cases. That’s due in large part to Bertrum and Allison Jean, who while experiencing unspeakable grief were determined to use their son’s death to champion justice.
They resolutely called for truth and transparency in the criminal justice system — from the day their son’s promising life was cut short on Sept. 6, 2018, in his Dallas apartment to his burial in their native St. Lucia a few weeks later and throughout Guyger’s trial that concluded in October.
The family was in Dallas again this month for Brandt Jean to accept the 2019 Ethical Courage Award from the Plano-based Institute for Law Enforcement Administration. There, they renewed their steadfast push for the Dallas Police Department to make changes. An investigation is ongoing into the way investigators handled the case before it was turned over to the Texas Rangers.
Most of us won’t have to endure the gut-wrenching loss this family has suffered. But they showed us that we’re stronger than we know. They represent the very best of us. And the very best within us.