By all accounts, Botham Shem Jean was a man of deep faith with a “beautiful” and “powerful” singing voice.
Relatives, friends and fellow Christians from the U.S. to his native St. Lucia expressed shock Friday upon learning of the 2015 Harding University graduate’s tragic death.
Harding is a well-known Christian university associated with The Churches of Christ. It has regularly attended Metro Voice’s Midwest Christian College Expo in Kansas City each year.
Jean, 26, was fatally shot in Texas on Thursday night when an off-duty Dallas police officer entered Jean’s apartment, mistaking it for her own, authorities said.
“He led singing often in Harding’s chapel and at the College Church of Christ in Searcy,” said Glenn Dillard, assistant vice president for enrollment management at Harding.
Jean grew up in a Church of Christ on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.
“Botham was a soldier of Christ,” his aunt, Desma Charles, told The Christian Chronicle, “committed to singing, song leading and teaching.” He was a “very vibrant young man who was well-loved by many and had the souls of men at heart.”
Charles, who worships with the Gros Islet Church of Christ in St. Lucia, said she talked with her nephew two weeks ago about “holding onto the Lord in challenging times.”
“I can say more, but my heart is too heavy,” she added. “All the congregations on the island are in grief — Gros Islet, L’Anse Road and Vieux Fort Church of Christ.”
Jean attended the Dallas West Church of Christ, which plans a prayer vigil in his memory at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall said at a Friday afternoon news conference that police would seek a manslaughter charge against the officer. Hall declined to identify the officer pending the formal filing of the charge. Dallas police have asked the Texas Rangers to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting.
“Right now, there are more questions than we have answers,” Hall told reporters. The chief said the officer’s shift had ended, but she was still in uniform when she encountered Jean inside the apartment about 10 p.m. Thursday. The officer’s blood was drawn to test for drugs and alcohol, the chief said. Specific details about the shooting were scarce.
Jean and his family were active in the Caribbean Lectures, an annual gathering of members of Churches of Christ across the region. Jean was responsible for technology at the conference — audio and PowerPoint slides of songs for worship, said Ken Dye, a longtime missionary to the Caribbean and coordinator of the lectures. Jean’s mother, Allison, served on the lectures’ steering committee
“He was a great song leader and a big part of the Caribbean Lectures,” Dye said of Jean. During his college years, Jean traveled from Harding back to the Caribbean to participate in the lectureship. He last attended the event about five years ago, Dye said.
Michael Stewart, a member of the Church of Christ Canaan on the island of Tobago, told the Chronicle that Jean and his family “have been instrumental to the church — not only in St. Lucia but in all the Caribbean.”
Elton Terry, minister for the St. Thomas Church of Christ in the U.S. Virgin Islands, remembered Jean as a gifted song leader who always wore a smile.
“I am in deep pain for my brother and friend, also for his parents and other family members,” Terry said. “This is so sad and such a loss for the Christian brotherhood, especially in this region and the Harding University community.”
Tracy Moore, who preaches for the Vero Beach Church of Christ in Florida, said: “I used to go to the Caribbean Lectures and met him there. An impressive young man. A powerful singer and always a spirit of joy that flowed from him.”
Cana Moore (no relation to Tracy Moore) is student association president at Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn. She said she knew Jean as a leader during their time as undergraduates at the Searcy campus.
“He was involved in a wide variety of ways, primarily serving in places where help was needed,” Cana Moore said. “He had a passion for service and uplifting leaders. He was a man of great joy. His greatest service … was constantly pointing back to God as our focus.”