Botham Jean’s brother told Amber Guyger ‘I forgive you.’ It became a polarizing moment.

Botham Jean’s brother told Amber Guyger ‘I forgive you.’ It became a polarizing moment.


It was a message of mercy followed by an emotional embrace that took a Dallas courtroom by surprise: the teenage brother of victim Botham Jean telling Amber Guyger, the former police officer convicted in Jean’s murder, that “if you truly are sorry — I know I can speak for myself — I forgive you.”

Brandt Jean’s unique request for a hug from Guyger during his victim impact statement on Wednesday came after jurors sentenced her to 10 years in prison. The 18-year-old reiterated during an interview Friday on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” that it’s what he thinks his brother would have wanted.

When asked about how some people are slower to forgive, Brandt Jean said that “each and everyone has steps to get towards actually forgiving. I probably went through those faster than other people. … If you are trying to forgive her, understand that she is a human being.”

His words were underscored by his father, Bertrum Jean, who told CNN on Thursday that he “felt the same way as Brandt.”

“I wouldn’t want to see her rot in hell. I wouldn’t want to see her rot in prison,” Bertrum Jean said of Guyger, adding that he expected the sentence — far short of the maximum of life in prison — “could have been a little more.”

But Botham Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, told NBC News that she isn’t sure she could have reacted the same way her youngest son did in that moment, although forgiveness is anchored in the family’s Christian faith.

“I don’t want forgiveness to be mistaken with a total relinquishing of responsibility,” she added.

The fraught feelings among members of the Jean family have not been lost on activists and community members, some of whom are voicing outrage that Guyger’s sentence appeared too lenient and concerns that it is once again incumbent on people of color, particularly black Americans, to absolve their perpetrators without the need for meaningful accountability.

Social media posts lauded the moment between Guyger and Brandt Jean as inspiring, including a tweet from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who said it was a “powerful example of Christian love & forgiveness.”

In response to the outpouring on Twitter, Cornell William Brooks, a former president and CEO of the NAACP, wrote that “using the willingness of Black people to forgive as an excuse to further victimize Black people is SINFUL.”