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COMMENTARY: Dallas Cop Amber Guyger Gets 10 Years for Murder of Botham Jean

NNPA NEWSWIRE — After deliberating her fate, a jury recommended a sentence of just 10 years in prison for Guyger’s assassination of her neighbor, Botham Jean. The judge upheld the sentencing recommendation. The 26-year old Jean was an accountant at the prestigious firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers at the time of his murder.

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Even after finding the defendant guilty after deliberating her fate for just three hours, the jury recommended a sentence of just 10 years in prison for Guyger’s September 2018 assassination of her neighbor, Botham Jean.

Guyer: ‘People are so ungrateful. No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.’

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Many believe that former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger is a racist with a quick trigger finger. Her tweets and social media posts demonstrate a thirst for blood, and many observers believe that she represents white privilege at its most disgusting level.

Even after finding the defendant guilty after deliberating her fate for just three hours, the jury recommended a sentence of just 10 years in prison for Guyger’s September 2018 assassination of her neighbor, Botham Jean. The 26-year old Botham was an accountant at the prestigious firm of Price Waterhouse Coopers at the time of his murder. Judge Tammy Kemp upheld the sentencing recommendation.

Prosecutors sought at least 28 years.

“If you truly are sorry… I forgive you,” Brandt Jean, Botham’s 18-year old younger brother, told Guyger after the jury read her sentence.

“I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want for you,” Brandt Jean said, before asking and receiving permission from the trial court judge to give Guyger a hug.

Unlike Brandt Jean, other family members weren’t so willing to offer Guyger forgiveness. At a press conference following the sentencing, Allison Jean, Botham’s mother, said, “My son’s life was much more valuable than ten years.” Then she shook her head and said, “but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Later, during an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Allison Jean shared that she did not know that her son Brandt was going to make the statement that he made. “So, I was very shocked when he did that,” she said to Cooper.

During the live broadcast of the hearing, protestors outside the courtroom could be heard yelling, “No Justice, No Peace,” from within the courtroom itself.

Activist Dominique Alexander said the sentence was much too light and called for additional protests.

Jean family lawyers said they’ll need to consult with their clients to determine where to go from here, including whether or not to push for federal charges against Guyger because of the comparatively light sentence.

It was a little more than one year ago that Guyger entered Botham Jean’s apartment and shot him for no apparent reason other than he was sitting in his house while black.

During the sentencing hearing, a series of text messages sent and received by Guyger were displayed in court for the jury and the world to see.

The picture painted by her words in those messages was ugly and Klan-esque, particularly from someone who is supposed to protect and serve all citizens.

They were egregiously disrespectful to African Americans and all people of color.

During a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Dallas in 2018, Guyger’s white supremacist-style attitude reared its ugly head.

“When does this end, lol,” read a text sent to Guyger purportedly from another officer on duty.

“When MLK is dead… oh, wait…” Guyger replied.

Later that year, Guyger received another text about the prospect of adopting a German Shepherd.

“Although she may be racist,” the individual texted to Guyger.

“It’s okay,” Guyger responded. “I’m the same. I hate everything and everyone but y’all.”

Prosecutors also showed jurors a text message exchange between Guyger and her partner and ex-lover Officer Martin Rivera.

The conversation took place six months before she shot Jean to death.

“Damn, I was at this area with five different black officers. Not racist but damn,” Rivera texted.

Guyger couldn’t resist in her reply: “Not racist but just have a different way of working, and it shows.”

If the text messages weren’t enough to show the kind of cop Guyger was, and what kind of person she is, Guyger’s Pinterest posts left little doubt.

She captioned one post of her with a military sniper weapon this way: “Stay low, go fast; kill first, die last; one shot, one kill; no luck, all skill.”

Another Pinterest post of Guyger’s reads: “I wear all black to remind you not to mess with me because I’m already dressed for your funeral.”

In that post, Guyger brandishes a gun, gloves, and a shovel. She wrote: “Yah I got meh a gun, a shovel, and gloves. If I were u back da f— up and get out of meh f—–g way.”

In still another post, Guyger wrote, “People are so ungrateful. No one ever thanks me for having the patience not to kill them.”

During the trial, Guyger said she was tired after working a long shift when she returned home on September 6, 2018.

She said she approached what she believed was her apartment and found the door partially ajar. Guyger said she saw a man inside the apartment and thought he was an intruder. She was still in uniform and shot Jean to death.

Because her unit is one floor below Jean’s, Guyger tried to explain that as the reason for the mix-up. For jurors, she couldn’t explain why she’d execute a man who was sitting on his couch, eating ice cream, and watching television.

Although she claimed to have yelled, “Let me see your hands,” neighbors testified that they never heard her utter such a command. The only sound they heard was the gunfire: Guyger shooting an unarmed man.

Guyger’s conviction and imprisonment appears part of a new trend where law enforcement officers are facing the music for crimes against unarmed individuals of color.

Earlier this year, Jason Van Dyke, a white former Chicago Police Officer, was convicted of second-degree murder in the October 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, an unarmed black teenager.

Van Dyke, who shot Laquan 16 times, was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison.

Robert Bates, a white Tulsa County, Oklahoma volunteer sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced in 2016 to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter in the 2015 death of Eric Harris, 44, who was unarmed and restrained.

Peter Liang, a rookie police officer in New York City, was convicted of manslaughter in 2016 in the 2014 death of 28-year-old Akai Gurley.

Gurley, who is black, was walking down the steps of his apartment building when a startled Liang panicked and open fire.

A judge reduced the conviction to negligent homicide and sentenced Liang to five years’ probation and 800 hours of community service.

Former Balch Springs, Texas, Police Officer Roy Oliver was convicted of murder in August in the 2017 death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Oliver, who is white, fired his weapon into a car packed with black teenagers, killing Edwards.

North Charleston, S.C., Officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges after killing Walter Scott, a black man, in 2015.

Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison in December 2017.

This week, jurors in Georgia began deliberating the case against former DeKalb County Police Officer Robert Olsen.

Olsen, who is white, is accused of killing Anthony Hill, a 26-year-old black man and military veteran who was unarmed and naked at the time of the shooting.

It took jurors less than a day before convicting Guyger who was taken into custody immediately following the verdict.

“For black people in America, this verdict is a huge victory,” said Lee Merritt, one of the attorney’s representing the Jean family.

“Few police officers ever face trial for shooting deaths, and even fewer are convicted,” Merritt stated.

He added that the verdict shows that justice is finally coming for the family of victims.

“Police officers are going to be held accountable for their actions, and we believe that will begin to change policing culture all over the world,” Merritt told reporters.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represents Jean’s family, said it was important to remember that there’s a list of unarmed African Americans who have been killed by police officers.

He said the verdict against Guyger was a welcome shift in the nation.

“For so many unarmed black and brown human beings all across America, this verdict is for them,” Crump stated.

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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