Brandt Jean, the brother of murdered Dallas resident Botham Jean, accepted the 2019 Ethical Courage Award from the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration Tuesday, calling on leadership to make sure officers are better trained and exercise more discipline to prevent another innocent loss of life.
The 18-year-old was recognized Tuesday in front of his sister, mother, father and members of law enforcement leadership, for his display of empathy and forgiveness during the sentencing of Dallas police officer Amber Guyger on Oct. 2.
Guyger was convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting Jean's 26-year-old brother, Botham Jean, in September 2018 when she mistakenly entered his apartment instead of her own and thought he was an intruder.
At the sentencing, Brandt Jean asked Judge Tammy Kemp if he could give Guyger a hug after offering her forgiveness. Video of the long, compassionate, emotional embrace was shared around the world.
During his acceptance speech Tuesday, Jean that he never meant for his words to Guyger to be heard worldwide, but that he thought after the verdict and sentencing she needed to be forgiven and that, similarly, he needed to offer that forgiveness.
"I never intended for the statement that I made to the person who murdered my brother to receive such international recognition," Jean said. "After being found guilty by a jury of her peers, sentenced under the law, Miss Guyger needed to be forgiven and I needed to be free from the burden of unforgiveness."
Gregory Smith, director of ILEA, said Jean "represents the best in us. Despite an unimaginable loss, he saw the humanity in the person responsible for his brother's death. He saw her pain and regret, and had the ability to show empathy, caring and forgiveness."
"I can't think of an act that was more courageous," said Smith. "That one act did much to help the Dallas community heal."
During his acceptance speech Tuesday, Jean called on leadership at the law enforcement conference to remember his brother, his own "example of ethical leadership," and to "champion the policies and procedures that amplify the value of all lives" by improving diverse leadership and by improving training and discipline among the rank and file.
Brandt admitted to struggling with whether or not he should accept the award from the law enforcement community, saying his brother was well aware of the danger posed to young black men by police "due to the misconceptions about color."
"I want you all to know that I am not a threat," Brandt told the assembled group of law enforcement leadership. "That young black males are not inherently dangerous or criminal."
Brandt said he believes "a lack of training and poor utilization of proper techniques at the opportune time" led to his brother's murder.
"That is the reason that I stand before you today. I am grateful for this award for the same reason I was grateful for the opportunity to embrace her [Guyger] after she was convicted of murder in her trial," Brandt said.
About 50 police officials from throughout Texas are enrolled in the conference and were on hand for the award ceremony. Following Jean's stirring remarks, those in attendance gave him a standing ovation.