On Thursday, residents of the South Side Flats came home to find their apartment complex surrounded by police. Several officers had run there from Dallas Police Department's headquarters, a mere sprint away from where an off-duty officer stepped into the wrong apartment after completing a 12-hour shift.
Residents of the apartment say they heard the officer fire two shots around 10 p.m. Thursday, killing Botham Shem Jean, the son of a former government official of Saint Lucia. The cause of the shooting is unclear. Initial reports from police are that the officer mistakenly attempted to enter Jean's apartment, thinking it was hers. Police have withheld the name of the officer, though a warrant for her arrest on a charge of manslaughter was issued Friday afternoon.
Jean's neighbor, a man who requested to be identified by his initials J.B., knew Jean well enough to say hello to the 26-year-old Harding University graduate. J.B. heard the shots as he was heading to his apartment.
“I stay on the fourth floor, directly across from what happened. I was walking back into the building … [as] soon as I put my key fob in through this door thing right here, walking down the hallway, that's when I heard the shots.”
After the shots, J.B. says things became quiet.
“I heard the shots, and then after that I went to my door and I didn't hear nothing else. So for me to hear the shots and then nothing else … it's like, 'What the hell was she in there doing?' There wasn't any panic or nothing like 'I had killed the wrong guy' or 'I'm in the wrong spot.' Like, 'I just did it.'”
J.B. says he didn't know a police officer lived in his building.
The police response was nearly immediate, with officers closing off the area as onlookers gathered around the complex's parking garage. Kelsey Zadel, a resident of the South Side Flats, says she was just leaving to walk her dog when she heard the shots. They were immediately followed by the sound of sirens.
Zadel says she saw officers running on foot toward the two-building apartment complex on the 1200 block of S. Lamar Street, but they were stymied by security locks on an exterior gates. Residents use electronic key fobs to unlock gates both inside and outside the buildings. Zadel says residents can access the fourth floor, where Jean lived, only by elevator.
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“I know [Dallas police] completely blocked everything off and then they were trying to get inside our doors, but our doors [use] a fob key so they couldn't get in,” Zadel says. “I flagged one of them down and I was like, 'Do you guys need to get in the gate?' And they said 'Yeah,' so they all came running and I let them in this gate right here.”
After helping police officers past the gate, Zadel says she further assisted police through subsequent resident-only gates on their way to the fourth floor. Jean's apartment was located at the building's northeast side. Zadel speculated that fatigue may have caused the officer to press the wrong button on the elevator, though she doesn't know the officer or where exactly she lives.
With most details of the night still unknown, all residents can do is speculate.
“That's crazy how that whole thing went out, how he's dead now and was just living,” J.B. says.