On September 5th, 2018, Alyssa Charles-Findley retired for the evening just as she had
done many times before, and all was well. Little did she know that her entire world
would be shaken to the core within hours, and her rock, the one she would turn call on
to put it all back together again, would be gone. On the morning of September 6th,
2018, Botham Jean was violently taken from her in a senseless act of police brutality.

From the moment she took the call alerting her to his passing, she knew her life would
never be the same. Botham murdered. How could someone kill the kindest, most gentle
soul she ever knew? The crime was all the more painful because it was committed in
his home, where every person should feel safe by a police officer sworn to protect and
serve. Amber Guyger, the officer who shot him, was placed on trial, and convicted. But
the conviction didn’t bring her brother back or put her world back together again.

In the aftermath of the verdict and the ensuing turmoil, Charles-Findley didn’t know what
to do, but she knew something needed to be done. She picked up a pen and began
writing, pouring her emotions onto page after page. It was therapeutic and freeing, and
it was also where she found her purpose. She learned that the world that was shocked
and appalled only a few months earlier and standing right next to her following her
brothers’ death had moved on, but the pain remained. Through conversations, she
found that, similar to hers, other families who had experienced this tragedy felt the same
and were crying out for hope, needing their pain to be heard and looking to be healed,
all of which her book offers.

“Part of this project called for me to connect with other victims’ families. I learned from
talking to them that some still live in the day of their tragedy. It’s not because they don’t
want to move forward; they just don’t know how. This book is my way of ensuring they
know life after a tragedy, even one that cuts this deep, is possible and, more importantly,
making sure they know they’re not alone.”

Losing That Person

Families are complex units. There are similarities between the members; the shared
DNA makes it impossible for there not to be. But in reality, and science notwithstanding,
there are just as many, if not more, differences. Distance and misunderstanding live
within those differences; it’s also where the magic of “that person,” the one in every
family who seamlessly, despite their differences, brings everyone together, is found. For
the Jean family, that person was Botham. “Cousins could be in one corner talking, an
aunt or uncle might be sitting in the kitchen, kids would be busy on electronics, but
when Botham walked in, we ceased being many and became one.”

Day after day, the absence of their person reverberates painfully inside the family he so
deeply loved. For his younger brother Brandt, who graciously offered Guyger
forgiveness, life has become a roller coaster with emotions, primarily anger, swinging to
and from. His mother continues trying to make sense of a situation that defies all logic.
When it comes to his father, the man who was once so jovial and fun-loving when his
son was here, he was forced into early retirement, unable to simultaneously focus on
work and deal with the death of his son. His passing has also changed Charles-Findley.

“Botham was that person for our family, but he was also my person in life. He was my
fuel, my confidence, and whenever I felt like I couldn’t do something, make a speech,
get a promotion, or close a deal, his presence ensured I knew I could. That’s who my
baby brother was to me, our family, and so many others, and that’s one of the ways I
miss him so very much.”

The Loss

Society has conditioned the world to believe the black man is a monster: a beast that
evokes fear above all other emotions. He’s treacherous by nature and inherently
untrustworthy, and regardless of his vocation, the achievements attached to his name,
or the goals he strives toward, his value begins and, sadly, ends at his skin. This
narrative surrounding the black man has been bandied about for centuries, but it holds
no truth, especially as it relates to men like Botham. “My brother was a gentle giant who
brought light to any space he entered. He could walk into a room of people he didn’t
know, and by the time he walked away, each person would feel like they had just spent
time with their best friend. That was the beauty of Botham.”

Life without Botham has been difficult. She’s healing but doesn’t expect to ever get over
the loss, but his absence has brought perspective and unlocked a new strength
Charles-Findley didn’t know she had. “Now whenever life sends a challenge my way, I
take a step back and put it on a scale one to Botham. My mindset is if I can find my way
through the pain of losing him, there isn’t a whole lot I can’t handle.”

Last Moments

As the years have gone by and we move further and further away from that fateful day,
Charles-Findley has repeatedly asked to sit down to speak with Amber Guyger.
Unfortunately, all those petitions have proven futile, as Guyger has shown no interest in
meeting the sister of the man whose life she took. Set to be released in September of
2024, Guyger even refuses to call Charles-Findley by name, choosing instead to refer to
her as “Brandt’s sister,” an overt slight that provides insights into the stench of
entitlement that one could argue fuels actions like hers.

To be clear, Charles-Findley isn’t looking to Guyger for closure; she just wants an
account of her brother’s last moments, and rightfully so. “I was his big sister and
protector, and it pains me that I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there, so I need answers. Did he suffer? Was there fear in his eyes? Did he call for help? These are some of the
questions I need answered. Here’s the cruelest twist of them all. I know she had never
met him, but if she had only began speaking to him instead of shooting at him, I promise
you, instead of walking out as a murderer, she would’ve walked out with a new friend. I
will always believe that with every fiber within me.”

Thoughts on the future

As the conversation turned to the future of America and whether or not the nation will
ever move beyond the racist stereotypes at the heart of these crimes that wreak havoc
on Black families like hers, Charles is hopeful but realistic. “I can’t say whether we’ll get
there in my lifetime. I mean, just look at how many unnecessary deaths have happened
since the murder of my brother. One could easily make the case that things have
actually become worse. What I can say is that I’m committed to using my book and my
voice to fight for change to honor the legacy of those who have fallen and the legacy of
my favorite person: my brother, Botham Jean.”