The brother of Dallas man fatally shot by an off-duty police officer used his time in court to offer a hug and a message of forgiveness to the officer as she received her prison sentence.
“If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you,” said 18-year-old Brandt Jean to former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger during his victim impact statement.
“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” he said. “If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.”
Guyger, 31, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday for the murder of Botham Jean, a 27-year-old black man who was killed last September. She will be eligible for parole in 5 years.
Guyger was off-duty but still wearing her police uniform when she entered Jean’s apartment and fatally shot him. She said she had just finished a long shift, was distracted by a series of text messages from a colleague with whom she was having an affair, and did not realize she had entered the wrong apartment by mistake.
Thinking that she was in her own apartment, she saw Jean sitting on the couch, thought he was an intruder, and opened fire.
Prosecutors had sought at least 28 years in prison, in recognition of the fact that Jean was about to turn 28 years old when he was killed. Guyger’s defense had argued that the murder was a mistake rather than a malicious act.
Protestors outside the courthouse objected to the sentence, saying it was too short.
Inside the courtroom, however, Brandt choked back tears as he addressed Guyger, saying, “I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want…and the best would be give your life for Christ.”
“I love you as a person, and I don't wish anything bad on you,” he continued, before asking – and receiving – permission to give Guyger a hug. The two shared a tearful embrace, with whispers that were not audible to those around them, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas praised the encounter, saying, “What an incredible example of Christian love and forgiveness we witnessed during the victim impact statement as Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt, forgave Amber Guyger, encouraged her to turn her life over to Christ and gave her a hug.”
“He said it is what Botham would’ve wanted,” Burns continued. “I pray we can all follow the example of this outstanding young man. Let us pray for peace in our community and around the world.”
After the sentencing, State District Judge Tammy Kemp offered Guyger her personal Bible, the Dallas Morning News reported. She encouraged Guyger to read it and told her, “Forgive yourself.”