Local pastors of all races demand justice for Botham Jean

Local United Methodist Church pastors rallied Wednesday to demand justice for Botham Jean.

Off-duty Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger killed Jean two weeks ago in his own apartment. Guyger said she thought it was her apartment and that Jean was an intruder.

The rally was organized when one pastor complained it appeared only African-American pastors were publicly demanding justice for Jean.

Demonstrators of all races walked the short distance between the Dallas Police Department and South Side Flats, where Jean was shot and killed.

“I'm so tired of people saying things like, ‘But he was walking in the wrong neighborhood. But he was walking with a hood on. But he reached in his pocket.’ We need to learn to say injustice was here. Period,” said Raegan Gilliland with Lovers Lane United Methodist Church. “A black man was killed unjustly. Period.”

“I stand here as a Latina United Methodist woman to say we are here, and we are with you,” said Eliana Rios with Elmwood UMC – Dallas.

“We will pray justice will be done, that healing will come to our community. But we will not stop praying," said Andy Lewis, an assistant to Bishop Michael McKee. "In scriptures, Micah compels us to do justice. In other words, to use our voices and our actions to ensure that all people in our community are treated fairly and equitably. So we, United Methodists of all colors are standing today to reconnect ourselves, to ask for justice, to walk for justice, to pray for justice."

Pastors participating in the effort said they felt compelled to speak out. Many have already signed an open letter voicing their concerns with what happened and how the process is playing out.

“Most of my colleagues would not peg me as an activist. I don’t march, I don’t shout very often,” said Rev. Abril Goforth, Sr. Pastor, First UMC, Lewisville. “If you’re not saying something, especially as a white person, you’re complicit in what is happening. It’s not a choice for us anymore.”

There have been several protests demanding Officer Guyger be fired and charged with murder. She is currently on administrative leave and charged with manslaughter. The district attorney has asked for patience while her investigators prepare a grand jury referral.

Reverend Edlen Cowley with the North Texas Conference of African American Clergy organized the demonstration. He wanted to bring people of all ethnicities together to speak with one voice.

"This is not about a rush to judgment. This is about lady justice. There is a lot of conflict in our community, and I feel that personally,” he said. “No matter what we say, the legal process is going to continue. So we're just going to pray.”

“I have no idea what it is like to worry about what it is like to be stopped by a police officer because of the color of my skin,” said Rev. John Fleming with the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. “I also will never have any idea what it is like for a white police officer to be standing where they did not intend to be being trained to look out for anything that is unusual. But there is something wrong, my friends, when out of the ordinary is to be a person of color.” 

The United Methodist church leaders called for both patience with the process and also vigilance. They want to give the Dallas County district attorney time to do her job, but they also want her to know she is accountable to the people.