Dallas City Council to consider renaming part of South Lamar Street after Botham Jean

When Chris Norman started an online petition to rename the street Botham Jean lived and died on, the Dallas-born native wanted people to remember Jean in ways that couldn’t be ignored.

“I wanted the city and all the cops to see his name every day and have no reason to forget it,” said Norman.

Norman said he started petitioning to rename South Lamar Street on a whim. He was moved to action after Jean’s killer, Amber Guyger, the police officer, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after she was found guilty of murder.

The Dallas city council is expected to hold a public hearing and then vote on Wednesday whether to rename nearly four miles of South Lamar Street after Jean, a 26-year-old accountant. Guyger shot him dead on September 6, 2018 in his apartment in the South Side Flats complex – down the street from the Dallas Police Department headquarters. She testified at her trial that it happened after she left work mistaking Jean’s apartment for her own, which was on a different floor.

The proposed Botham Jean Boulevard would run between Interstate 30 and the South Central Expressway. The remainder of Lamar Street, another 1 mile (1.6 km) north of I-30 through downtown Dallas to Interstate 35E, would not be renamed.

The online petition with more than 55,000 signatures and the renaming of the street was picked up by the local activist group Botham Jean Memorial Committee. The idea was later formally proposed by members of the Dallas City Council. While the renaming of the street was publicly backed by at least three councilors and the mayor, some, including members of Jean’s family, have expressed disappointment that the entire street will not be renamed for him.

Allison Jean, Botham’s mother, said she felt, “It is a very small but significant representation of what Botham meant to the city of Dallas.”

“I believe there are many ways Botham can be honored,” Jean said Tuesday from her home in St. Lucia. “I appreciate that this is one of the avenues considered.” She said she plans to speak in favor of renaming the street during Wednesday’s council meeting.

Dr. Pamela Grayson, one of the founders of the Botham Jean Memorial Committee, said the city should continue its renaming efforts.

“It’s an insult because the initial process was walking all over the street, but the council got involved and settled for less,” she said.

Norman credited local activists and others for working to come up with more than one idea. He said he would be in favor of part of the street being renamed, but he reserves his excitement for the day the proposal becomes a reality.

“I’ve learned in life to have low expectations of everything so I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen,” said Norman, who said the petition made him “stumble” into activism. “I am pleasantly surprised that it has come to this and that the city council is even considering it. But it’s not a victory yet. “

Jean’s name is one of the many black Americans killed by police officers whose names are used in national protests in memory of the police force and racial justice reforms.

Against a backdrop of a newly painted mural by Botham Jean, Frisco Jackson of Dallas posed for a photo with son Leo (right) and daughter Aireyin in front of a memorial on South Lamar Street on Cadiz Street near downtown Dallas on Sept. 6 (Tom Fox) / The Dallas Morning News)(Tom Fox / employee photographer)

“His life was important”

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano tipped a memo last summer, signed by Councilors Adam Bazaldua and Omar Narvaez, requesting that 3 miles of the street be renamed. This section runs through the districts of Medrano and Bazaldua.

“Renaming the street in honor of Botham Jean would show the citizens of Dallas that his death was not in vain and show the world that his life matters,” the July 23 memo to City Manager TC Broadnax said .

A photo of Botham Jean leaned against Judge Tammy Kemp's bench during the Amber Guyger murder trial.A photo of Botham Jean leaned against Judge Tammy Kemp’s bench during the Amber Guyger murder trial.(Tom Fox / employee photographer)

The proposal was approved by the city’s Subdivision Review Committee in September and highlighted green by the planning committee in November before being forwarded to the city council.

Similar efforts to remember black Americans killed by police officers have been made in and outside Texas.

Fort Worth officials approved the Atatiana Jefferson Memorial Parkway in October, named after the 28-year-old woman who was shot and killed through the window of her mother’s house by a city police officer in October 2019 while babysitting her nephew. Grayson said she was also involved in this effort.

Aaron Dean resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department after being charged with the murder of Jefferson. He’s waiting for the trial.

Authorities in Grand Rapids, Michigan also approved the renaming of a downtown street to Breonna Taylor Way in October. Police killed Taylor, 26, last March while she was at her Louisville home, but she was born and raised in the city of Michigan. No officers were charged with her murder. One of them, former Detective Brett Hankison, is charged with charges that he ruthlessly shot into an apartment near Taylor’s unit.

The previous proposal to rename part of South Lamar Street is supported by at least Medrano, Bazaldua, Narvaez and Mayor Eric Johnson by the City Council.

Johnson told the Dallas Morning News that he supported the plan and believed that Jean was “kindness, faith and service.”

“We need more of those values ​​in our world today,” said Johnson.

Medrano said the original plan was to rename South Lamar Street from I-30 to Corinth Street, but after discussing this with Jean’s family and Bazaldua, he decided to include the entire street south of I-30.

Medrano told The News that he didn’t know if the name change would pass, but he hadn’t heard any setbacks from his fellow councilors about it.

“But we’ll see how people feel on Wednesday,” said Medrano. He said he had not spoken to all of the council members about how they would vote.

Remembering Botham Jean

In November, Medrano informed the town planning commission that he had not included the northern portion of Lamar Street in his proposal because he did not believe he would have support from Councilor David Blewett, who represents the district that encompasses Lamar Street to the north of I. -30.

“It’s political, it always is,” Medrano said during the November 5th meeting. We wanted to remember Botham. We don’t want drama. So we wanted to make sure we could do this name change without any problems. “

Blewett said his colleagues never approached him to have part of Lamar Street in his area named after Jean. He believes the entire street should be renamed – or none of it. Blewett said he would have preferred to get more community input before proceeding with the process, including at least one public forum to collect feedback from anyone who would be affected on either side of the highway.

“I’m a salesman, and if my people want it, I want it,” said Blewett. “I don’t think it’s right to just push through a street name change without getting a community buy-in.”

A Dallas spokesman said Tuesday that the city cost associated with changing all street signs would be around $ 20,000. The state would also have to pay for any highway signs that need to be changed.

All property and business owners would also incur costs related to the change that the city would not accept. According to the city, 122 property owners along South Lamar Street were notified of the possible name change in August.

If approved, the city council would have to approve at least two exemptions for the city code for the name change. One to circumvent a rule that Dallas streets only have to have one name and one that prohibits the removal of street names that are reminiscent of historical characters, places, or areas.

Lamar Street is named after Mirabeau B. Lamar, the first vice president of the Republic of Texas, who later elected Sam Houston as president in 1838. His official duties as President included using public property proceeds to fund public education and leading efforts to move the capital from Houston to Austin. He would also have nearly bankrupted Texas, supported slavery, and spearheaded an effort that resulted in the death or displacement of nearly all Native Americans in the republic.

Allison Jean said the murders of Taylor, George Floyd, Jacob Blake and others since their son was fatally shot had “added another dagger to botham’s pain”. The past year has been particularly difficult, she said, and she noticed that it was too painful for her to keep counting the names of blacks who have died after meeting police officers. She said she feared for her daughter and three grandchildren who live in the United States

Allison Jean said she was grateful for everyone who worked to keep the public remembering her son.

“I don’t live in Dallas, but I know there are still people in Dallas who continue to speak for him,” she said. “And that gives me great confidence.”

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