The lawyer for the family of the Dallas man fatally shot by a police officer in his own apartment says police are trying to discredit the victim.
Botham Shem Jean, 26, died on Sept. 6 after off-duty officer Amber Guyger walked into his apartment, allegedly thinking she was in hers (which is located one floor below) and shot him twice.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who represents Jean’s family, criticized the police’s search warrant, which was obtained in the hours following the shooting, as an attempt to discredit Jean after his death.
“They immediately began to smear him,” Merritt told The Associated Press.
According to a search warrant affidavit released on Thursday, police seized two fired cartridge casings, one laptop, a ballistic police vest, a backpack with police equipment and paperwork, two radio frequency identification keys, 10.4 grams of marijuana (equal to less than half an ounce) and a marijuana grinder, among other things, from Jean’s apartment.
The affidavit didn’t identify who owned which items, according to a copy obtained by NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is also representing Jean’s family, told NBC DFW that Jean’s family does not know who the marijuana belongs to. Still, Crump maintained that the seized drugs were “nothing but a disgusting attempt to assassinate his character now that they have assassinated his person.”
Cornell William Brooks, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, agreed:
This is the postmortem character assassination of #BothamJean .
This character attack is like when Emmet Till was accused of leering at a White woman (who lied) to legitimate his lynching.
An after death marijuana possession charge does NOT legitimate a homicide. @nytimes https://t.co/Wk5P604nr0
– Cornell William Brooks (@CornellWBrooks) September 14, 2018
Although the search warrant affidavit for Jean’s apartment was made public on Thursday, the same the day as Jean’s funeral, one for Guyger’s apartment wasn’t. The Dallas Police Department and Texas Rangers did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on whether her apartment was searched during the investigation.
David Menschel, an Oregon-based criminal defense attorney and activist, called the release of the search warrant “propaganda.”
“An off-duty cop goes into the wrong apartment and shoots the man who lives there dead, and so, as we’ve come to expect, local law enforcement is doing what it can to cast aspersions at the innocent victim – to suggest he was ‘no angel’ – and therefore apparently deserved to be shot dead in his own home,” Menschel told HuffPost. “And much of the media plays along, amplifying law enforcement’s propaganda.”
After the affidavit was released, Fox 4 News published a story about the search of Jean’s home. The headline, which has since been changed, highlighted the marijuana in the search warrant affidavit without mentioning any other items that were seized from Jean’s apartment.
DEVELOPING: Search warrant: Marijuana found in Botham Jean’s apartment after deadly shooting https://t.co/ISSGgxgt34 pic.twitter.com/iE6IsnNUUX
– FOX 4 NEWS (@FOX4) September 13, 2018
People on Twitter called Fox 4′s headline irresponsible and reckless, noting that the marijuana discovery was irrelevant to Jean’s death.
Tom Angell, a marijuana activist and publisher of the news site Marijuana Moment, said that Fox 4 News’ headline wrongly suggested that Jean was at fault for his death.
“For Fox 4 to frame and play up this finding in the way that it did – implying that cannabis use might have justified his murder – is irresponsible reporting,” Angell told HuffPost. It “demonstrates how people of color, even in death, suffer disproportionate and discriminatory treatment for something many white people do with impunity.”
This is irresponsible and disgraceful. Botham Jean was killed in his own home and his life matters. https://t.co/CvhrGEv5yY
– Texas Civil Rights Project (@TXCivilRights) September 14, 2018
They’ve changed the headline: Lawyers “disgusted” by release of search warrant showing marijuana found in Botham Jean’s apartment
Warrants are routinely made public, filed unsealed in criminal cases. We report what’s in them when they’re relevant. This wasn’t. https://t.co/krI8UNKijs
– Kristine Phillips 🤦♀️ (@kristinegWP) September 14, 2018
In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who shoot them in their homes; and the district attorneys, who release irrelevant search warrants after the fact. These are their bullshit stories. https://t.co/bXsO1r6o0m
– Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) September 14, 2018
If Botham Jean was a white man, would the media portray him as a drug user, or as the homicide VICTIM he is?
I think we all know the answer. https://t.co/v8FkufNIEw
– Delaney Tarr (@delaneytarr) September 14, 2018
Matt Schweich, deputy director of the policy reform group Marijuana Policy Project, questioned why officials haven’t released a search warrant for Guyger’s apartment.
“A small amount of personal marijuana is irrelevant to this tragedy. It’s as relevant as a six-pack of beer,” Schweich told HuffPost.
“If an innocent victim’s privacy is to be invaded through the release of a search warrant, then at the very least the perpetrator’s privacy should be invaded in the same manner,” Schweich added.
The search warrant also contradicted Guygers’ arrest affidavit, which was released on Monday. In the affidavit, Guyger claimed that Jean was across the room in her apartment at the time of the shooting. The search warrant, which was signed by a Dallas police officer, said that Jean confronted Guyger at the front door.
In the arrest affidavit, Guyger also said she was able to enter Jean’s apartment because the door was slightly ajar, and claimed she fired at Jean after he ignored her “verbal commands.”
Guyger was arrested and charged with manslaughter on Sunday. She was later released on a $300,000 bond, per CBS News.
Matt Ferner contributed to this report.