Search of Botham Jean's apartment ignites outrage over victim’s ‘character assassination’

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.

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Funeral held for Botham Shem Jean, man shot and killed by a Dallas police officer
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Funeral held for Botham Shem Jean, man shot and killed by a Dallas police officer
Mourners console each other during the public viewing before the funeral of Botham Shem Jean at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on Thursday, September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas. He was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer in his apartment last week in Dallas. (Shaban Athuman/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Mourners line up during the public viewing before the funeral of Botham Shem Jean at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on Thursday, September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas. He was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer in his apartment last week in Dallas. (Shaban Athuman//The Dallas Morning News via AP) (Shaban Athuman/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 file photo, Brandt Jean, center left, brother of shooting victim Botham Jean, hugs his sister Allisa Charles-Findley, during a news conference outside the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, about the shooting of Botham Jean by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on Thursday. He was joined by his mother, Allison Jean, second from left, and attorney Benjamin Crump, second from right, as attorney Lee Merritt, right, speaks to the media. A funeral is scheduled Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, for Botham Jean killed in his home by a Dallas police officer who says she mistook his residence for her own. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File)
FILE - This March 24, 2014, file photo provided by Harding University in Searcy, Ark., shows Botham Jean, speaking at the university. Jean was fatally shot Sept. 6, 2018, by off-duty officer Amber Guyger who says she mistook his residence for her own. The service for 26-year-old Botham Jean will start at noon Thursday, Sept. 13, at a church in suburban Dallas following a public viewing. (Jeff Montgomery/Harding University via AP, File)
Allison Jean, mother of Botham Shem Jean,, front, leaves after viewing her son's body before the funeral service for Botham Shem at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on Thursday, September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas. He was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer in his apartment last week in Dallas. (Shaban Athuman/ The Dallas Morning News)/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
RICHARDSON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: A person carrying a wreath of flowers walks through the parking lot at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ for the funeral service for Botham Shem Jean on September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas.Jean was killed when a Dallas Police officer who accidentally went into Jean's apartment, thinking it was her own and shot him. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
RICHARDSON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: A person carrying a wreath of flowers walks through the parking lot at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ for the funeral service for Botham Shem Jean on September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas. Jean was killed when a Dallas Police officer who accidentally went into Jean's apartment, thinking it was her own and shot him. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
RICHARDSON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13: The casket arrives for the funeral service to commemorate Botham Shem Jean, 26, at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas. Jean was killed when a Dallas Police officer who accidentally went into Jean's apartment, thinking it was her own and shot him. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
RICHARDSON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13 The casket carrying Botham Shem Jean arrives at Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas. Jean was killed when a Dallas Police officer who accidentally went into Jean's apartment, thinking it was her own and shot him. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
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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.

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.

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.”

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.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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