Dallas police say the killing of witness Joshua Brown was unrelated to the trial and conviction of Amber Guyger.

Slate Politics 2 months ago
On September 24, Joshua Brown, Botham Jean's neighbor, points to a map of the South Side Flats where he lives, while testifying during the murder trial of former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger, in Dallas. Brown was killed in a shooting on October 4.
Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News/Pool/AP Images

Four days after the shooting death of 28-year-old Joshua Brown, who had been a crucial witness in the high-profile murder trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, the Dallas Police Department announced it had issued capital murder warrants for three suspects.

In a press conference Tuesday, assistant chief Avery Moore said that Thaddeous Charles Green, 22, Michael Diaz Mitchell, 32, and Jacquerious Mitchell, 20, had traveled from Alexandria, Louisiana to Dallas—a roughly four-and-a-half hour drive—to purchase drugs from Brown, only to end up exchanging gunfire with him, leaving Brown dead and one of the would-be buyers wounded. Police reported that they had searched Brown’s apartment and found 12 pounds of marijuana, 143 grams of THC cartridges and $4,000 cash.

Brown, a father of three who supervised Airbnb units in Atlanta and Los Angeles, was shot and killed on October 4. He was forced into the public consciousness when he testified against Guyger, who was found guilty on October 1 of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison for wrongfully entering Botham Jean’s unit in the Southside Flats apartment complex in September 2018 and fatally shooting him.

Here’s how police laid out the alleged details of Brown’s shooting on Tuesday: Green was the one who contacted Brown about buying drugs. When the three Louisianans reached the apartment parking lot where they were supposed to meet him, Green got out of the vehicle to talk to Brown, and the two ended up in an altercation. Jacquerious Mitchell then got out of the car, and Brown told him to get back in, then shot him in the chest. Jacquerious Mitchell told police he heard two more gunshots as he lay wounded in the car, and that Green had shot Brown twice and taken Brown’s backpack and gun. Michael Mitchell, who was driving, took Jacquerious to the hospital.

Jacquerious Mitchell is in police custody while officials are still searching for Michael Mitchell and Green.

Although earlier reports about the shooting said Brown was shot in the mouth, Moore said an autopsy had found that both wounds were in his lower body. The fatal shot entered below Brown’s spine and traveled upward, damaging vital organs.

“As you know there’s been speculation and rumors that have been shared by community leaders claiming that Mr. Brown’s death was related to the Amber Guyger trial and somehow the Dallas Police Department was responsible,” said Moore during Tuesday’s press conference. “I assure you that is simply not true and I encourage those leaders to be mindful of their actions moving forward because their words have jeopardized the integrity of the city of Dallas as well as the Dallas Police Department.”

Brown’s family, through their attorney Lee Merritt, released a statement on Tuesday asking Dallas Police to recuse themselves from the investigation into Brown’s murder, citing the case’s proximity to Guyger’s trial.

“This family and their representatives have consciously avoided speculating about law enforcement involvement in this tragedy, however, due to the proximity of the this murder with the trial of Amber Guyger—rumors abound,” the statement read. “It will be nearly impossible to conduct a reliable investigation in a climate where the investigating agency has been implicated in the murder itself. That implication naturally stems from a trial where a Dallas police officer was convicted of murder and other DPD officers were shown to have participated in condemnable behavior in destroying evidence and interfering with the investigation.” (Dallas police officer Martin Rivera, Guyger’s former partner, admitted to destroying text messages that could have been used as evidence during the trial.)

Other observers of the case expressed doubt in the police account of the shooting as well — mainly why anyone would drive over 300 miles to buy marijuana and then leave the drugs behind; why Brown’s alleged side hustle didn’t come up during witness cross examinations; and if someone who had just testified in a high-profile case would even have the gumption to continue carrying out a large scale drug operation at such an inopportune time. Another pointed out that Brown, according to Merritt, was going to be called as a witness in a civil suit Jean’s family filed against the Dallas police department.

Brown made it clear that he had no interest in testifying in Guyger’s trial, Merritt told CNN. Brown had been shot in November 2018, just three months after Jean was killed, in an unsolved case, and Merritt said Brown “was concerned that that person might try to come back and finish the job.”

Merritt tweeted on Tuesday that officials had been aware of Brown’s reservations, but threatened him with jail time if he refused to testify.

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