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Arnold Joseph and Botham Jean: two fatal police shootings, the uncanny paradox (commentary by Trevlyn Bonaparte)

By Trevlyn Bonaparte

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Arnold Joseph (left) and Botham Jean

Over the past three weeks, I cannot help but compare the tragic police shooting of 17-year-old Arnold Joseph to that of Botham Jean.

Arnold was the Entrepot Secondary School student who was shot and killed by police on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, while 26-year-old Botham was killed by a police officer on September 6, 2018. Both shootings took place sometime after 10 p.m.

Botham being a decade older at the time of his passing was a graduate of Harding University, had been involved in charitable missions and was employed as an accountant. Arnold was in the process of writing his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams. Both young men have been described by persons who knew them as friendly, happy and had a passion for music. Jean served as a worship leader at his church. Arnold, commonly known to his friends as Selector Jay, was a budding DJ.

The Arnold incident

The setting of Arnold’s fatal police encounter was a white Mitsubishi Lancer in the area of Chaussee Road and La Pansee junction in Castries, St. Lucia. The youngster was riding in a car accompanied by his teacher and driven by the teacher’s brother. The unwillingness of eyewitnesses and individuals who knew Arnold to speak up has led to a lot of misinformation in the media. Reports that the student lived with his teacher, although widely reported, has been proven false.

The information I have gathered (unconfirmed) revealed that on the last day of his life, Arnold spent the day at his school working on some last-minute exam preparations as he had an exam the following day. He then went off to work on the evening as he had a previously scheduled DJ gig. The teacher at the centre of the incident showed up at the event. Since they both lived in the same community of Babouneau, Arnold requested a ride home.

Sometime after 10 p.m. on that fateful evening, the teacher and Arnold got into the car with the brother of the teacher behind the wheel. The car drove through the city centre. The driver and passengers heard the police sirens but did not realize that they were the ones being chased by the police. They simply assumed that there was probably a shooting or crime in the vicinity and that they should get out of the area. The car was then shot at by the police, killing Arnold and injuring the driver in the process, and forcing the car to stop.

The Botham incident 

Botham was at his apartment in Dallas, Texas (U.S.A) viewing television when he was fatally shot by off-duty Dallas police officer Amber Guyger who indicated that she had assumed that this was her apartment, the door was ajar and that she thought that there was an intruder in her apartment. In Arnold’s case, the initial police reports stated that they had received reports of a botched robbery in the city centre, that police were in pursuit of a fleeing white Toyota Lancer and that a gun was recovered from the scene. However, no gun charges have been filed in this incident and none of the business places in the city have publicly reported an attempted robbery from the night of the incident. The police have since then been unwilling to provide any further information on this matter.

Reaction to the incidents

In Botham’s case, his family, church, neighbours, people who did not know him and were unable to pronounce his name, quickly stood up and demanded justice. His family hired an attorney, held press conferences, were willing to discuss their son, demanded the firing of the police officer, and sued the city for civil rights violations. People were marching in the streets and disturbing town hall meetings, shouting “no justice, no peace”. The prime minister of St. Lucia, Allen Chastanet, travelled to Texas to stand with Botham’s family. Candlelight vigils were held in the U.S. and St. Lucia, and two funeral services were conducted. The Dallas Police Department was forced to react, fired the police officer and she has since been charged with murder.

Sadly, the reaction to Arnold’s death could not be more different. Three weeks later it’s like this never happened. The family has not made a public statement demanding justice for their son. The school refuses to discuss Arnold’s life as a student. The witnesses are not speaking up. Youth leaders have been advised not to discuss this issue and delete any comments on this issue on social media. The Ministry of Education and the police are also mute. Three weeks later, there has been no candlelight vigils, no autopsy reports and no public death announcement or funeral arrangements.

Even worst, many on social media have attacked the character of the dead. I have seen social media comments which stated that because he was a student, he should not have been out playing music or should not have been out at 10 p.m. Does this justify his execution by the police?

The calls for an independent investigation into the death of Arnold Joseph has been largely ignored. My question is why is there a code of silence surrounding the death of Arnold Joseph? Who is behind the code of silence? Who has the authority to keep the school and minister of education silent three weeks after the death of a student? Was the family of the deceased student offered a bribe for their silence and cooperation? With an election looming, is this an attempt at showing support for the police in exchange for future support from the police? I may be wrong but this smells like coverup from the highest level.

The silence is deafening. In the meantime, there is a class of students who are in disbelief. How are they supposed to know that all life matters? How will they find closure?

The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of the management and staff of St. Lucia News Online and its parent company, Andrews Media Services Corporation.

(60)(3)
This article was posted in its entirety as received by stlucianewsonline.com. This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.

24 comments

  1. I was with you untill the last paragraph when you injected politics into something that should not be politicized. And yes, I know you will tell me what the PM said but let's do better. Social commentary is good but let's do it without the political spin unless warranted.

    (4)(2)
    • The PM of St.Lucia flew hundreds of miles away to cry on TV in Texas. This young man lost his life in Castries. Has a speech been given, maybe a visit to the family, any tears shed on TV yet? It's the standard that's been set.

      I guess crimes against St.Lucians need to happen in foreign countries to warrant a speech. So yes, in my humble opinion, this has been politicized. Quite frankly, any other deductions can be made. One man's life is not worth more than another. I don't care what our corrupt society has brainwashed the majority of us to believe.

      This is the first i'm hearing of this young man's death though. Peace and blessings to his family.

      (12)(0)
  2. I guess Arnold aint Nobody No Candle Lights Vigils Youth Leaders aint speaking up Hipocrite Fake ,family aint demanding justice for their son teachers are afraid to speak For BOTHAM they were all speaking up even the Prime minister ttavelled to USA seeking justice for BOTHAM

    (5)(1)
  3. Why dont the BOTHAM Family aint speaking up her son got killed they lined the street for him why not Arnold l guess he aint rich

    (5)(3)
  4. "Was the family of the deceased student offered a bribe for their silence and cooperation?" I think the writer is rather insensitive

    (6)(2)
  5. See!! Like I predicted the chickens have come home to roost. I warned that if the implications of Botham's death cannot have a positive impact on St. Lucia's own Justice system then the whole point would have been lost. At this stage it is not only the subject of a point being lost but the severe ramifications of class and privilege have now reared its ugly head. This also has implications for the government and all the people who marched or lined up the street in St. Lucia. I ask again: What about Beck?

    This game that the elitist of this country are playing is a dangerous one and may one unfortunate day infuriate the masses to a posture which may be untenable and a stain on St. Lucia's history. We need to treat ALL our citizens with dignity and justice. Botham's mother enjoyed a privileged position as a leader in the socio political echelons of St. Lucia. What has she done or has influenced in order to ensure that every St. Lucian, restrictive of class, creed or race has access to Justice? It was not until the problem brought tragedy to her doorsteps that she discovered the true meaning of Justice, truth and being her brothers' and sisters' keeper. Not until tragedy arrive did her brother another leader in the political echelons of St. Lucia, and former Minister of government realize that we need to guarantee Justice especially for those who are disadvantaged. Alas came another bully and taught them what it meant to be taken advantage of.

    I am not minimizing the grief that the Jean family has suffered, after all, they are also our family. However, the situation has underscored that people in position must think and act positively and sensitively to the needs of those who can't help themselves. Notwithstanding that the Jeans may stand to get millions of US dollars in compensation for the lost of their loved one, but compare that to Arnold Joseph's family who is at the mercy of the philanthropy of Mary Francis (who is often ridiculed by these same leaders) who may receive a meager $16, 000 EC.

    What are we advocating here? Are we telling our youth its better to get shot in the US to guarantee their family prosperity? This may sound absurd but in light of any positive impact or direction given by our leaders we are left to pursue our own, and its plausible as a policy. Avoid getting shot and killed by police in St. Lucia for just $14, 000 its better to get shot in the US (millions).

    (9)(0)
  6. It seems like people are stunned by the death of this young man. Did the police got it wrong and shoot at a group of innocent people in a white car? If the police made a MISTAKE, why is the group presented as felons armed with a gun? Supposing the car was occupied by a group of unarmed youngsters but no one would voucher for their character because they are poorly connected in the community does that mean they will not get justice? It seems that only well-established individuals with articulate parents that can take on the fight for justice but they are more effective abroad than in St Lucia.

    St Lucia must look itself in the mirror when it comes to justice. Is it only authorities abroad that is held accountable and not itself?

    (2)(0)
  7. "Was the family of the deceased student offered a bribe for their silence and cooperation?" The writer lacks diplomacy, tact and respect for the living parents while seeking to advocate for their dead son. Silence is subject to interpretation. If you do not know what is going on, you are free to ask questions, but the tone of your piece is far from respectful and full of speculation. Interesting that Saint Lucia News Online did not upload my last comment but has approved your article for publishing. *Upside down country*

    (6)(1)
  8. "Was the family of the deceased student offered a bribe for their silence and cooperation? " this question and the tone of the peace are even more heartless than the ones from social media....

    I admire the parents and their strength...because God knows what they are already going through and how they would feel after reading this piece of speculation.....if you do not know what is going on you are entitled to ask questions, but do so respectfully...and objectively, with diplomacy.

    Silence does not mean the family is doing nothing. You are making an assumption based on your perception and interpretation of silence. A lot of times people come out and make lots of noise initially, then what??

    Honestly, I pray that people take ten steps back and think twice before writing these types of articles....the parents are going through enough!

    (5)(0)
  9. Arnold’s parents have been walking back and forth tirelessly to make sure they are doing things the legal way and when thy do come out and make a public appearance they do not make a fool out of themselves. We are currently taking care of his burial arrangements and can assure you that you will hear from his father. Thank you for this article.

    (7)(0)
  10. This is so true (writer). To the dad yes do what you must do

    (4)(0)
  11. WOW..... I GUESS HIS FAMILY NOT RICH AND EH HAVE LINKS SO HE IS A NOBODY................................. Three weeks later it’s like this never happened. The family has not made a public statement demanding justice for their son. The school refuses to discuss Arnold’s life as a student. The witnesses are not speaking up. Youth leaders have been advised not to discuss this issue and delete any comments on this issue on social media. The Ministry of Education and the police are also mute. Three weeks later, there has been no candlelight vigils, no autopsy reports and no public death announcement or funeral arrangements.............LUCIANS TOO HYPOCRITE..........WHERE ALL THOSE WHO LINED THE STREET FOR BOTHAM.

    (24)(6)
    • If your parents and family care about your life, they will make a genuine effort to help and guide you in the right direction so you find your self in the right places when ur a minor/ adult. Not have you riding around in your "teachers" car in the night in the slum areas of Castries. Also if your life was valued by them, they will take it upon them selves to bring your story to the forefront and push for justice. Not just sit around and cry wishing for help to fall from the sky.

      Not for one second should anyone believe that there was no effort and drive by Bothams family to push for justice. His name isnt all over the media by accident. It took hard work and dedication to the cause. But thats niggas for you, hard work and dedication is a problem for them.

      Take a look at the two young men in the pictures above, there is a notable difference between the the two aint it?

      (0)(13)
    • Columban Sextius

      I know everyone's anxious to know what's happening,but plz be calm soon enough it will be made public.thanks for your concern and hope to have your support when we are going to call on the public.

      (6)(0)
    • Preach my brother/sister preach for your words are the gospel truth. Peace be with you RIP Arnold may your spirit hunt those who take your life.

      (3)(0)
  12. This article is misleading. Comparing apples and oranges.

    (17)(32)
    • Who is the apple and who is the orange?

      (4)(0)
      • One has the potential for a huge pay out and international media coverage where as the other will be insulted with a paltry compensation if he is lucky enough to get justice. Therefore the so and so's will be putting their efforts where there is greater reward, Arnold will fade away just like Kimberly.

        (6)(0)
  13. Columban Sextius

    Hi there, just wanna let you guys know that this is one case that cannot be swept under the carpet. I'm taking time to come out but when i do, hmmm. I'm Arnold's dad, and I'll do anything a real dad would do, but with the right timing.

    (47)(9)
    • Good. I hope that St. Lucians get the opportunity to line the streets and wear red.

      (6)(0)
    • the timing is now. The timing is weeks ago. But there is a reason that this shooting is treated differently. Nobody spoke up until now. This is the first time I am hearing that the boy was in the vehicle with his teacher and teachers brother. There was some mis-information about the police finding a gun. There was a concerted effort to paint the victims as criminals. And if people believe that the victims are criminals then they would not care. The family and people who know (including the school) should have spoken up. They can still speak up.

      (7)(0)

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