Dallas Unveils Botham Jean Boulevard, Named For A Man Killed By An Off-Duty Police Officer
The family of Botham Jean gathered in Dallas on Saturday for a ceremony that renamed a street in his honor.
Botham Jean Boulevard is named for the Black man who was killed in his apartment by an off-duty Dallas police officer in 2018.
The ceremony was filled with tributes to the character of a young man whose death shocked the world.
Jean’s sister, Allisa Findley, was emotional as she spoke from the podium, across the street from Dallas police headquarters, standing under the new street sign that bears his name.
“Yes, we want everyone to remember Botham. We want everyone to say his name. But for his name to be up there, that means he’s not [here],” she said. “And it is hard for us.”
“I miss my brother,” she added. “I want him back.”
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said Jean was the ideal Dallasite: Not from here, but dedicated to giving back to the community he’d adopted. He gave the family a copy of the resolution passed by the city that officially changed a four-mile stretch of Lamar Street to Botham Jean Boulevard.
"This city today is honoring someone who is just as worthy and in my opinion more worthy, than many of the names that grace many of the thoroughfares throughout this city," Johnson said.
Jean grew up in Saint Lucia, the middle child of a prominent family in the Caribbean island nation. An alumnus of Harding University in Arkansas, Jean worked for the accounting consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas. He sang in the choir at Dallas West Church of Christ.
Speakers at the dedication recalled Jean’s passion, as well as his humility, kindness and dedication to excellence.
“Botham had a smile as big as Dallas, Texas, but [he was] honest almost to a fault,” said Tommy Bush, who served as a mentor for Jean when he was in college.
'Botham Beckons Us Today'
Just 26 years old when he died, Jean’s death was also commemorated as a symbol of the historic and structural racism that shortens the lives of too many Black men in Dallas.
Pastor Michael Waters of Joy Tabernacle A.M.E. Church pointed out that Lamar Street, the former name of Botham Jean Boulevard, honors Mirabeau Lamar. The first president of the Republic of Texas, Lamar aggressively pursued the genocidal expulsion of Native Americans from his newly minted country, and was such a proponent of Black enslavement that he signed an order making it impossible for Black Texans to live freely in the state.
Botham Jean Boulevard terminates at a stretch of Interstate 30 named for former Dallas mayor R.L. Thornton. The street is “cut short” by a stretch of highway honoring Thornton, Waters said. Thornton was reportedly a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
I-30 is a racial and economic dividing line in Dallas, demarcating decades of disparities from redlining and other policies that shaped a city where some neighborhoods south of the highway have life expectancies decades shorter than the whiter and wealthier neighborhoods to the north.
“Botham beckons us today to complete the work, to not allow his boulevard to run short, to extend the promise and prosperity given the north to southern neighbors, to commit ourselves anew,” Waters said.
'Make A More Just America'
Speaking to an audience that included several City Council members, the mayor, and state lawmakers, civil rights attorney Ben Crump challenged the elected officials to fight for justice and pay tribute to the legacy of Botham Jean, “not just when the cameras are out but when we’re making policy.”
“We can make a more just America where Breonna Taylor gets to sleep in peace throughout the night, where George Floyd gets the opportunity to take another breath…and where Ahmaud Arbery gets to run free and not be lynched for jogging while Black,” Crump said. “We can make a more just America where Botham Jean should have been allowed to live and continue to impact the world.”
Crump is one of the lawyers representing the Jean family in a federal lawsuit against the city.
Jean was fatally shot in his apartment in September 2018 by Amber Guyger, then a Dallas police officer just off of a long shift. He was eating ice cream when she entered his apartment.
Guyger, who is white, testified at trial that Jean’s death was a tragic mistake. She thought she was entering her own apartment on the floor below. She said she believed Jean was a burglar when she shot him.
The prosecutor argued that, even if she was mistaken, Guyger made a choice to enter the apartment and use deadly force when she had the option to retreat and call for backup. That choice went against her training as a cop, and resulted in Jean’s death.
A jury sentenced Guyger to serve 10 years in prison for murder.
Guyger is appealing the sentence. The first hearing in the appeal is scheduled for April 27.
Video: Watch The Renaming Ceremony