Dallas News.com:- CASTRIES, St. Lucia — In life, Botham Jean’s dream was to change the world.
In death, his family and friends vowed, he will.
Mourners in Jean’s home country on Monday paid tribute to the 26-year-old, who had aspirations to one day become prime minister here, during the final service before his burial. They also called for answers and consequences for the police officer who shot him in his Cedars apartment after she said she mistook it for her own.
“We demand justice for Botham. Botham’s life matters,” his uncle Ignacius Jean said in a eulogy. “We are in the house of the Lord where it is appropriate to kneel for Botham.”
The service was filled with about three hours of tributes and songs for the loss of one of this country’s sons. Nobody mentioned the name Amber Guyger, the officer who shot Jean. Guyger was fired Monday, hours before the service began and 11 days after North Texas mourners honored him in his first funeral service.
Ignacious Jean said he hoped Botham’s killer would find “peace of conscience” and tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” about his nephew’s death.”
His words were met with raucous applause. His comments echoed those from others’ in Jean’s family who believes what actually happened Sept. 6 at South South Flats has yet to come out.
Guyger shot and killed Jean in his apartment after, she said, she believed him to be a burglar in her own apartment, which was a floor below hers. Still in uniform but off duty, Guyger fired twice, striking Jean once in the chest. Guyger is facing a manslaughter charge. She’s free on a $300,000 bond.
An attorney for Jean’s family said Botham Jean, a PricewaterhouseCoopers employee, was sitting at home watching a football game when Guyger barged in.
The shooting prompted protests and outrage as another example of a white officer killing an unarmed black man.
Speakers at the funeral encouraged those in Dallas to keep marching and protesting as long as they remained peaceful and nonviolent. They said that is what Jean — who Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings had previously said once gave out water to immigration policy protesters at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — would have wanted.
Jean’s father, Bertrum Jean, said the outpouring of love after his son’s death proved Botham Jean belonged to no country. People all over the world mailed cards offering condolences, he said. Bertrum Jean said he received so many that his hands hurt from opening them.
“All night, I have been reading cards,” he said. “It was just tremendous.”
Bertrum Jean then broke down sobbing as he recounted the last time he spoke to his son, two weeks before he died. They often chatted by text.
“Daddy, am I a bad son?” the younger Jean asked.
“No, Botham, you are not,” the father replied.
“I said, ‘no Botham, you are good boy,” the father told mourners as two men rushed to hold him up.
Jean’s parents last saw him alive in March when his mother had surgery in New York.
“I can’t believe my boy is now dead,” the father said through tears.
The service in the capital city at the 100-year-old Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is the largest on the island and the only one that could handle a large number of mourners. The Catholic Church sits on the city square named for Derek Walcott, a St. Lucian who won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
A block away is the the county’s Department of Justice. Its nearness and the idea of justice loomed in the service and on the island of 180,000 residents.
Before the service, Jean’s parents walked in behind the casket. His mother Allison, who visited Dallas after her son’s death, remained steady as she passed the crowd. His father wiped his eyes with a red handkerchief.
Across the street, white chairs sat in a shaded, grassy area of the square for mourners who couldn’t fit into the church. Speakers broadcast the service outside.
On sidewalks, entrepreneurs sold popcorn and bottled water. An icy cold 24-ounce bottle of water went for $2.50.
Miles from the funeral, at the education office for the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development & Labour, two photos of Jean hung on each side of a banner with cerulean blue, black and gold stripes — the colors of the St. Lucian flag. Jean’s mother was once an official with the department.
“I Stand For Botham!” was written under one photo. “Justice For Botham!” was under the other.
During the sermon, as the service neared the three-hour mark, Brother Sammy L. Berry asked mourners to stand. He led them in chanting “Stand up for Botham. Stand Up for Botham” as they raised their right fists in the air.
Mourners in black and red dress clothes and shirts bearing Jean’s smiling image filed past the open casket inside the church. His family passed out red carnations with his name name and “Sunrise 9/21/91 — Sunset 9/6/18.”
Schoolchildren in collared orange shirts and plaid pants or jumpers sat near the front of the church in one of the eight rows of pews.
Open doors and glass stained windows provided the slightest of breezes inside the high-ceiling church, which didn’t have air-conditioning, where the funeral programs doubled as handheld fans.
Many of those who spoke cited Jean’s unwavering faith in God, his dedication to his friends and his love of singing. Several members of Jean’s childhood choir created a video tribute of them signing “Lean on Me” from all over the world because they could not attend.
After the video, Brother Thaddeus Bruno said “there comes a time when we are all in need of a friend.”
“And today is quite appropriate.”