Investigators are still determining whether an off-duty Dallas police officer, who allegedly went inside the wrong apartment by mistake and killed a man inside, should be criminally charged.
Dallas Police Chief Renée 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 investigators needed more time to decipher what they described as an unusual case of a police-involved shooting that led to the death of 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean. The officer, who has five years' service, has been placed on administrative leave.
After her shift ended Thursday night, the officer allegedly entered what she thought was her apartment near downtown Dallas. Jean, who lived there, was home. Authorities have not said what they think 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 restructuring. 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 whether race was 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 — whether she was 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 St. 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 McLarty remembered once asking 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 St. 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, McLarty said.
One of Jean's uncles, Earl Jean, posted a remembrance of his nephew on Facebook. With a display of photos of the young man grinning in a suit, hanging out with his family and clinking glasses in a kitchen, Earl Jean 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, a former St. Lucia government official, called the news of her son’s death “a nightmare.”
“I wish I could wake up,” she told NBC News.
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 Jean said that 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 Jean told NBC News. “Botham would want me to get justice for him. The state needs to pay for my son.”
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Saturday that Botham Jean's family had flown to Dallas. He said he also made contact with St. Lucia's prime minister to apologize for Jean's death.
Botham Jean, Rawlings said, “was exactly the sort of citizen we want to have in the city of Dallas.”