Meet Brandt Jean — Man Who Forgave His Brother's Killer Amber Guyger

Photo: Instagram
Who Is Brandt Jean? New Details On Botham Jean's Brother And How He Reached Out To Amber Guyger In Forgiveness

Losing a sibling is one of the hardest things a person can go through, as Brandt Jean knows all too well. He was only a teenager when his brother Botham Jean was fatally shot in his own home by off-duty police officer Amber Guyger. Brandt's sister says he hasn't been the same since their brother died. "It's like the light behind his eyes is off," Alissa Findley said.

But Brandt took the world by surprise at the sentencing of his brother's murderer last week. He took the opportunity to give a victim impact statement but Instead of speaking in grief or anger, he tried to offer forgiveness to Guyger. When he was finished, he asked the judge for permission to hug her before she was taken away to serve her 10-year sentence.

Who is Brandt Jean? Read on to learn more. 

1. Shot to kill

In 2018, Botham Jean was in his own apartment eating a bowl of ice cream when a woman walked in and shot him to death. The woman was Amber Guyger, who lived a floor below Jean and had arrived at his door by mistake instead of going to her own home, according to ABC News. At her trial, Guyger testified that on the night she killed Jean, she had inadvertently parked on a higher level than usual and exited the garage on the wrong floor without noticing. As she approached what she says she thought was her own apartment, she noticed the door was ajar. Instead of backing away or making her presence — and the fact that she was a police officer — known, she drew her gun. When she opened the door she saw Jean and she shot to kill. She told the jury she feared for her life because she thought Jean was an intruder. 

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2. A murder or a mistake

There was a lot of controversy over the death of Botham Jean. Some felt that the jury should overlook the fact that Guyger entered the wrong apartment and should only consider that she legitimately thought that she was defending her home. Others pointed out that she should have paid attention to major cues that she was in the wrong place, including the bright red doormat outside the apartment. Moreover, she admitted that she shot to kill. Prosecutors said that Guyger really should have sought cover and called for backup if she thought she was in danger.

Her legal team tried to dismiss the errors in judgment that she made as said a series of "innocent mistakes" led to an "awful and tragic" outcome.

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3. Guilty of murder

The jury rejected the idea that Guyger acted reasonably and came back with a verdict of murder. The judge had a lot of leeway in sentencing after that, she could have sent Guyger away for up to 99 years, but she handed down a sentence of only 10 years, NBC News reports

RELATED: Who Is Amber Guyger? New Details About The Officer Who Shot A Man After She Accidentally Entered His Home (Thinking It Was Hers)

4. An extraordinary moment

At the sentencing hearing for Guyger, Brandt Jean spoke to the assembled room to give a victim impact statement. Instead of talking about the effects of the loss of his brother, he spoke about forgiveness and faith, directly addressing Amber Guyger. "I love you just like anyone else and I'm not going to hope you rot and die," he said, according to ABC. "I personally want the best for you. I wasn't going to say this in front of my family, 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 for you. Give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ is the best thing Botham would want for you."

After saying those words, he asked the judge if it would be possible for him to hug the woman who killed his older brother. The judge assented and Jean and Guyger shared an embrace on the courtroom floor. 

5. Mixed opinions about the hug

Opinion about the youngest Jean's actions swirled madly on the internet and in the media after the sentencing. Nearly everyone had an opinion about the teenager's decision to look upon his brother's murderer with compassion. Many felt that his act of forgiveness is an outcropping of systemic racism that forces black people to forgive in order to continue to get along. NPR called to mind a 2015 essay that Roxane Gay wrote for the New York Times in response to the shooting of black congregants in a Charleston church: "Black people forgive because we need to survive," Gay wrote. "We have to forgive time and time again while racism or white silence in the face of racism continues to thrive." She goes on to write "What white people are really asking for when they demand forgiveness from a traumatized community is absolution."

Even the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. was skeptical of the peaceful approach to this tragedy. "God bless #BothamJean's brother," tweeted Bernice King. "But don't confuse his forgiveness with absolving this nation for its gross, bitter discrimination against Black people in a myriad of its systems and policies. Racism and white supremacist ideology can't be 'hugged out.' "

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Bernie King shares her thoughts on Twitter.

6. A mother's approval

But Brandt's mother had nothing but approval for her son's choice. She wrote on Facebook "I’m proud of you my son, Brandt. Your load is lighter. Who feels it knows it. Regardless of the views of the spectators, walk with God always. Forgiveness is for the forgiver and it doesn’t matter what the forgiven does with it. #BelikeBo is being Christlike. #LetitRise"

Jean's mother supports his actions.

Brandt told Good Morning America that he did what he did to ease his own mind after the tragedy of losing his brother.  "This is what you have to do to set yourself free."I didn't really plan on living the rest of my life hating this woman," he said. "I know that there's something called peace of mind and that's the type of stuff you need to do to have peace of mind." 

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.