Friend after friend stepped to podiums at a suburban Dallas church Thursday to deliver tearful tributes to the kindness of Botham Shem Jean, the pious and beloved St. Lucia man killed by a police officer in his own apartment.
Alexis Stossel said it was difficult to sum up what Jean meant in words, but she tried a few: “silly,” “faithful,” “the biggest, extroverted accountant you’d ever find.” But what encapsulated him most was his definition of success, his friend said.
“We serve others through the messages we send. … You’re successful when you help others, not just when you’re most able but most anytime,” Stossel recalled him saying, pausing to ponder the words. “Gosh, he was so successful, wasn’t he? He was always in service of others, even when it wasn’t convenient for him.”
The ceremony came a day after a City Council session was interrupted by protesters demanding answers in Jean’s death. Protesters cited a lack of public information about how and why off-duty Dallas police officer Amber Guyger shot and killed Jean. Guyger, who is white, has been charged with manslaughter in the killing and has told police she mistakenly thought Jean was in her apartment.
On Thursday, Jean’s uncle, Ignatius Jean, told mourners how his nephew had many interests – from geometry and astronomy to music, cooking and nice suits – and how he was so well read that he could hold court on “subjects from the furious to the sublime.” His uncle will miss their discourse, he said.
“When I got the phone, I was devastated. I was torn apart. I was ripped apart. He’s a brother of mine,” said minister Michael Griffin of Singing Hills Church of Christ, one of many settings where Jean had shown off his pipes with a choir.
Griffin, who delivered a prayer at the funeral, told CNN before the service that he takes consolation in knowing that Jean “was a child of God.” Named for English cricketer Sir Ian Botham and Shem, the son of Noah in the Bible, the Castries, St. Lucia, native was a generous soul who considered everyone a friend, Griffin and others said of the 26-year-old.
“He was the light. He didn’t look at color. He loved everybody,” Griffin said. “He was a person who would give you the shirt off his back and his sole purpose in life was to make humanity better, just to make you a better person, a better human.”
Many of his relatives were to watch the Dallas service from St. Lucia, Griffin said, and the family will hold a separate, more traditional ceremony when his body is returned home.
’His smile lit up a room’
As mourners filed into the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ, Jean’s casket sat at the front of the sanctuary. Two screens showed photos of Jean laughing with friends, shooting hoops, sporting costumes and enjoying his days at Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, the school from which he graduated before joining the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
His mother, Allison Jean, visited the casket before embracing her fellow mourners in the sanctuary, as others who knew him or simply wished to pay their respects arrived by car and bus.
The funeral program said Botham Jean participated in student government at Harding, sang with the Good News Singers and led worship at the Church of Christ, of which he was a lifelong member.
“Botham had an enthusiasm for life that was contagious. His smile lit up a room. He was passionate about people and – because of his faith – shared his love and joy with everyone,” the program said.
The page included a piece of scripture, John 14:1-4, which includes the verse, “And if