Lawyer: Wit­ness in Guyger mur­der trial killed in shoot­ing

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Brit­tany Sham­mas

A wit­ness who was key to the mur­der con­vic­tion of Am­ber Guyger, the for­mer Dal­las po­lice of­fi­cer who opened fire on her neigh­bor Botham Jean in his own apart­ment, was shot to death 10 days af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing in the high-profile trial, ac­cord­ing to a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Jean fam­ily.

Joshua Brown, who lived in the same apart­ment com­plex as Jean and Guyger and over­heard their fa­tal en­counter, was “shot sev­eral times by an un­known as­sailant” on Fri­day night, civil rights lawyer Lee Mer­ritt said Satur­day night on Twit­ter.

Brown was a 28-year-old Lan­caster, Texas, na­tive and for­mer Uni­ver­sity of South Florida foot­ball player who ran his own busi­ness in Dal­las.

“His mur­der un­der­scores the re­al­ity of the black ex­pe­ri­ence in Amer­ica,” Mer­ritt wrote. “A for­mer ath­lete turned en­tre­pre­neur — Brown lived in con­stant fear that he could be the next vic­tim of gun vi­o­lence, ei­ther state sanc­tioned or oth­er­wise.”

The Dal­las Po­lice Depart­ment has not con­firmed that Brown was the man killed, not­ing that the vic­tim wasn’t car­ry­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. But in an emailed state­ment, the depart­ment said of­fi­cers had re­sponded to re­ports of a shoot­ing just af­ter 10:30 p.m. at the Atera Apart­ments. Mer­ritt said Brown was liv­ing there af­ter mov­ing from the South Side Flats, where he, Guyger and Jean resided when Guyger killed Jean in Septem­ber 2018.

Au­thor­i­ties ar­rived at the com­plex Satur­day night to find a man ly­ing on the ground in the park­ing lot with mul­ti­ple gun­shot wounds. Paramedics took him to Park­land Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal, where he died.

“Sev­eral wit­nesses heard sev­eral gun­shots and ob­served a sil­ver four-door sedan leav­ing the park­ing lot at a high rate of speed,” po­lice said, adding that there are no sus­pects.

The fa­tal shoot­ing came two days af­ter ju­rors sen­tenced Guyger to 10 years in prison for the mur­der of 26-year-old Jean, a St. Lu­cia-born ac­coun­tant and church singer. That a white of­fi­cer had killed an un­armed black man in his home sparked wide­spread out­rage and protests in Dal­las.

Brown’s tes­ti­mony was cru­cial to the out­come of the case, Mer­ritt said. Brown took the stand on Sept. 24, the se­cond day of the trial, and told ju­rors that he was walk­ing to­ward his unit at the South Side Flats when he over­heard what sounded like a sur­prise meet­ing be­tween Jean, who lived across the hall from him, and Guyger. He couldn’t make out what they were say­ing but was sure he didn’t hear the loud po­lice com­mands that Guyger later claimed she made.

That tes­ti­mony un­der­mined “a key el­e­ment of the de­fense,” Mer­ritt said.

“Am­ber claimed she shouted com­mands to Botham be­fore shoot­ing him,” Mer­ritt wrote on Face­book. “She didn’t. No one heard that. No neigh­bors. No passerby’s. Not Joshua as he walked down the cor­ri­dor. No one.”

Brown ran when he heard two gun­shots ring out. Then, wor­ried about his dog, he headed back to­ward his unit. Through the peep­hole in his door, he said, he watched Guyger pac­ing the hall­way and talk­ing on her phone.

“She was cry­ing,” Brown tes­ti­fied dur­ing the trial. “Ex­plain­ing what hap­pened, what she thought hap­pened. Say­ing she came into the wrong apart­ment.”

He looked down at his lap and held a tis­sue to his eyes as he ex­plained that he had met Jean only once, just hours be­fore the Sept. 6, 2018, shoot­ing. But Brown had of­ten heard him across the hall, singing gospel and Drake: “I heard him singing ev­ery morn­ing,” he said, be­fore ask­ing for a break.

Judge Tammy Kemp called a re­cess so that Brown could col­lect him­self.

On Satur­day, friends and for­mer team­mates re­acted to Brown’s death with shock. They told the Tampa Bay Times that he was funny and out­spo­ken.

“He was a pas­sion­ate in­di­vid­ual,” Kofi Amichia, who played with Brown at the Uni­ver­sity of South Florida, told the pa­per. “A guy that al­ways spoke his mind no mat­ter what, and one of the fun­ni­est guys at USF. Could make any­body laugh.”

TOM FOX/DAL­LAS MORN­ING NEWS

Joshua Brown, left, pro­vided key tes­ti­mony in the mur­der trial of for­mer Dal­las po­lice of­fi­cer Am­ber Guyger.

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