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Contradicting stories in deadly police shooting

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger says she shot and killed Botham Shem Jean after she thought she was entering her own apartment, not realizing she was on the wrong floor. Guyger stands charged with manslaughter. CNN's Ryan Young reports.

Posted: Sep 12, 2018 7:49 PM
Updated: Sep 12, 2018 8:09 PM

Right now, there are far more questions than answers about the September 6 shooting at an apartment complex in Dallas, Texas. What little we do know is unquestionably tragic -- heartbreaking.

It is also beyond dispute that a white officer killed an unarmed black man. Yet we do not yet know nearly enough to conclude or speculate, as a flood of news stories and tweets do, that this shooting was motivated by racial profiling. None of us yet knows if the evidence in this shooting will dictate that we add it to the obscene toll racial profiling takes in America. In many ways, it almost doesn't matter, because the trust that should exist between police officers, white or black, and the communities of color they serve is diminished or entirely absent.

The facts as we know them so far: Resident Alyssa Kinsey told CNN she was on the phone Thursday night when she heard a shot followed by what sounded like "running steps" and a woman's voice calling the police. She soon learned that her next-door neighbor, Botham Shem Jean, had been fatally shot.

"He was great, as a neighbor," Kinsey said, "quiet, friendly, super chill. ... We would chat about life, smiling and laughing. He had a huge smile." A 26-year-old black man, born and raised in Saint Lucia, Jean had moved to the apartment in April. His LinkedIn profile identifies him as a "Risk Assurance Experienced Associate" at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), and he described himself as "striving towards leadership in my career, my community and society."

We also know that the person who shot him is a white woman, a four-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department assigned to the Southeast Patrol Division. Dallas Police Chief Ulysha Renee Hall told reporters on Monday that 30-year-old Amber Guyger "returned to what she believed to be her apartment after her shift ended." But it was, in fact, Jean's apartment. According to Alyssa Kinsey, the apartment doors at the complex are all similar, but Jean's doorstep had a bright red mat.

Officer Guyger, who has now been charged with manslaughter, "encountered Mr. Jean inside the apartment," Chief Hall told reporters, adding that "at some point she fired her weapon striking the victim." Guyger next called 911, and officers "responded in about four minutes."

We know that Botham Shem Jean was shot in his own apartment, but we do not yet know enough to conclude that he was shot because he was a black man in his own apartment. Yet many of the tweets and the news stories draw the same premature conclusion about the motive behind this young black man's death. Those weighing in so prematurely should take a lesson from Chief Hall, who sought to avoid unfounded conclusions as well as even a hint of bias by turning the investigation over to an outside agency, the Texas Rangers.

But Hall is a professional and the public is the public. There may not be much hard information on this shooting, but many Americans have a memory of all too many unarmed young black men shot by white officers. As one of the attorneys the Jean family has hired, Benjamin Crump, told the press, "We're still dealing in America with black people being killed in some of the most arbitrary ways, driving while black, walking while black and now we have to add livinig while black."

Is Crump, like so many others, jumping to a conclusion?

Maybe. But in today's America, it is a tragically understandable one. If this were a movie, we'd complain that it was nothing but a variation on the same old terrible plot: driving while black, walking while black, living while black.

But it is not a movie. No, we don't yet know enough to say that this shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer had anything to do with the race of either the victim or the shooter. But we know so very much about recent history, about so many recent shootings linked to racial profiling, that the conclusion -- right or wrong in the case of Botham Shem Jean -- is right there waiting to be jumped to.

Americans have learned to assume that racial profiling pulls the trigger whenever an officer -- white or black -- shoots a person of color. The sooner police agencies are able to credibly persuade the public, especially in minority communities, to change their assumptions, the sooner we can begin to rebuild the trust the police and the people so urgently need.

In the meantime, whatever we learn about the death of Botham Shem Jean, one essential truth will remain: a life, young and promising and loved, was lost.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 65436

Reported Deaths: 1848
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5487116
DeSoto352328
Madison238763
Harrison237835
Rankin222032
Jackson220142
Jones184258
Forrest172155
Washington158237
Lauderdale139090
Lee133232
Neshoba127891
Lamar118414
Bolivar116333
Oktibbeha109037
Lowndes103935
Warren100731
Scott98720
Panola98012
Sunflower96723
Copiah94128
Lafayette93714
Leflore89362
Pike87734
Holmes86348
Grenada83021
Yazoo80712
Pontotoc7918
Lincoln79041
Leake77925
Simpson77930
Wayne74921
Monroe74751
Coahoma69711
Tate69227
Marion63819
Marshall6389
Covington60713
Winston60415
Adams60225
Union56215
George5484
Newton53511
Pearl River52037
Attala51324
Walthall48919
Noxubee44411
Chickasaw44119
Tallahatchie40710
Calhoun4009
Claiborne39913
Smith39413
Prentiss3869
Alcorn3825
Clay38214
Jasper3819
Hancock36314
Tishomingo3505
Itawamba33710
Tippah32513
Clarke32425
Tunica3176
Montgomery3073
Yalobusha30710
Lawrence3067
Humphreys28211
Carroll25411
Quitman2401
Greene23111
Kemper22815
Jefferson Davis2266
Amite2206
Perry2207
Webster21612
Jefferson1946
Wilkinson19413
Sharkey1903
Stone1633
Benton1330
Choctaw1304
Franklin1162
Issaquena251
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12486232
Mobile9420204
Montgomery6449148
Madison516130
Tuscaloosa405769
Baldwin338023
Unassigned319060
Shelby316432
Marshall306034
Lee258844
Morgan229517
Etowah204128
DeKalb174513
Calhoun167213
Elmore167238
Walker149864
Houston134812
Dallas130523
St. Clair128915
Russell12772
Limestone126113
Franklin123820
Cullman118912
Colbert114113
Lauderdale112315
Autauga105021
Escambia104416
Talladega96713
Jackson9244
Tallapoosa84179
Chambers83538
Dale80223
Blount7593
Butler75635
Chilton7456
Coffee7365
Covington71620
Pike6877
Lowndes56724
Barbour5655
Marion56224
Marengo53614
Clarke4949
Hale46426
Bullock45011
Winston44011
Perry4364
Wilcox41410
Bibb4134
Monroe4084
Randolph39410
Conecuh37810
Pickens3779
Sumter36018
Lawrence3321
Macon32013
Washington32012
Crenshaw3123
Choctaw27712
Cherokee2587
Greene24911
Henry2493
Geneva2480
Clay2375
Lamar2122
Fayette1835
Cleburne1251
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