Hundreds of mourners filled a Richardson church for the funeral of Botham Jean on Thursday afternoon, a week after he was shot in his apartment by an off-duty Dallas police officer.
Before the service, a long line of family and friends paid their respects as they filed by the 26-year-old’s body, which was dressed in a suit in an open casket.
Halfway through the visitation, Brandt Jean approached the altar and began speaking to his older brother’s body. He smoothed Botham Jean’s lapel and caressed his forehead. He rested a fist on the edge of the casket and shook his head as he shared private words.
His family crowded around and rubbed Brandt Jean’s shoulders as he looked up at the church’s purple-and-yellow stained glass window.
For more than two and half hours, Botham Jean was celebrated and remembered. The Greenville Avenue Church of Christ in Richardson was full of neckties and roses in Jean’s favorite color, red.
He will be buried in his home of Saint Lucia, but the Dallas service allowed friends from college and work as well as his church family to honor “Bo” and say goodbye.
“To know Botham was to love Botham. He was the light in a dark room.” said pastor Michael Griffin,who met Jean at Dallas West Church of Christ. “Bo made us all better. Bo didn’t see color, he saw love.”
After days of protests over the way Jean died, Griffin said that it was time to celebrate Jean’s life. “If you came with something else on your mind today, I’m sorry, but you came with the wrong agenda.”
But the circumstances of his death served as a subtle undercurrent in a ceremony focused on Jean’s faith and his friendship.
Few referenced how Jean was fatally shot last week in his Cedars apartment when an off-duty Dallas police officer allegedly mistook his apartment for hers. According to an arrest affidavit, Amber Guyger says she saw a “silhouette” who did ignored her verbal commands before she fired two shots at Jean.
“Botham Shem Jean was not a silhouette,” family friend Dane Felicien said, garnering a standing ovation from the packed sanctuary, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall. “Botham Shem Jean was a fine man. And Botham Shem Jean deserves to be with Jesus.”
Faith and family
Jean was named for a cricket player in the West Indies, his uncle Ignatius Jean said. As a child, he loved the sport and rattled off names of players and their statistics. He paid tribute to his nephew in both English and Creole, in word and in song.
His uncle said the 2 a.m. phone call about Jean’s slaying felt as if “a nuke had been unleashed on our family by someone trusted to protect and serve.”
Ignatius Jean, a politician who served in Saint Lucia’s House of Assembly, said on a recent visit home Jean had confided that he planned to follow in those footsteps. He wanted to represent the people of his home, possibly even as prime minister.
But nearly everyone who addressed the crowd Thursday spoke of Jean’s faith-filled life. A constant refrain was that friends and family will see him again in heaven.
Jean was baptized at 10 and by 13 was making plans to share his faith across Saint Lucia, they recalled. He went on mission trips and volunteered at home. He studied at Harding University in Arkansas, a Christian school where he led chapel and sang in an a capella group.
When Jean found his North Texas church home at Dallas West Church of Christ, he got involved with every ministry he could, helping with youth events and leading worship music.
One friend shared notes Jean had made on a recent sermon. “I want people to know they are not alone,” Jean wrote. “It is impossible to be alone in Christ because God is always with us.”
At Harding this week, Jean’s influence was felt in a chapel, when a recording of him speaking as a freshman was projected on large screens, Chancellor Clifton L. Ganus said.
“He still sings with us,” he said.
Music played a significant role in the funeral service with rousing renditions of hymns sung by mourners without accompaniment and a performance by his college group, the Good News.
SOURCE: Charles Scudder and Sara Coello