DALLAS (AP) – Attorneys for the family of a black man who was killed in his own apartment by a white police officer accused Dallas officials of trying to “assassinate his character” by releasing a report saying that authorities found marijuana in the victim’s apartment.
At a news conference Friday, the lawyers also called for the firing of police officer Amber Guyger, who gunned down 26-year-old Botham Jean in his own apartment on Sept. 6. She has been booked on a preliminary charge of manslaughter and is free on bond.
Guyger told investigators she mistook Jean’s apartment for her own, which is right below his, and that upon entering the dark home, she believed she had encountered an intruder and shot him when he didn’t obey her verbal commands.
Lee Merritt, one of the Jean family attorneys, said Friday that investigators wasted no time in digging for dirt they could use to smear Jean’s name. Within hours of Jean being shot, they asked a judge for a warrant to search his home for drugs, among other things.
“On the night that he was killed, the Dallas Police Department investigators were interested specifically in finding information that could help assassinate his character,” Merritt said.
Dallas police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the criticism.
Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, expressed disgust that on Thursday, as mourners at her son’s funeral were remembering him for his religious convictions and kindness, the results of that search of his home were released. They showed that, among the things, police found a small amount of marijuana – 10.4 grams – and a marijuana grinder.
“To have my son smeared in such a way, I think shows that there (are people) who are really nasty, who are really dirty and are going to cover up for the devil Amber Guyger,” she said.
She also called on police to release toxicology results from a blood sample taken from Guyger on the night of the shooting.
The local Fox television affiliate, KDFW, was roundly criticized for its initial reporting on the release of the report on the search’s findings, drawing scorn from figures across the political spectrum for focusing on the marijuana, tweeting: “DEVELOPING: Search warrant: Marijuana found in Botham Jean’s apartment after deadly shooting.”
On Twitter, the ACLU called the tweet an “attack on an innocent man.”
Fox News contributor Guy Benson commented on Twitter, “Irrelevant. 100% irrelevant.”
KDFW, which later updated its story and added more context, declined to comment Friday about its initial coverage of the search affidavit.
At his funeral, Jean was described as talented and passionate man, who confided to his uncle that he might want to become prime minister of his native Caribbean island country of St. Lucia someday.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall were among those who attended the hymn-filled funeral. Rawlings has described Jean as a young professional and man of faith who was “exactly the sort of citizen we want to have.”
In Texas, being caught with that amount of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor punishable for up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.