ATATIANA JEFFERSON

September 26, 2020

12 October, 2019

A Black woman has been shot dead in her own home by a white police officer responding to a call for a welfare check in the US state of Texas.

A memorial in front of the Fort Worth home of Atatiana Jefferson, who was shot and killed in her bedroom.Credit…Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

Atatiana Jefferson was killed after a neighbour in Fort Worth phoned police to say he was worried because the 28-year-old’s front door had been left open.

Ms. Jefferson, 28, sold medical pharmaceutical equipment from home while studying to apply to medical school. She had earned a degree in biology from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2014. 

Ms. Jefferson was a loving aunt who would play basketball and video games with her nephews, her sister Amber Carr said. She had recently moved in with her mother, who had health problems — and learned about her daughter’s shooting while in a hospital.

In body cam footage released by the police, two responders can be seen using flashlights to search the home from outside before one is heard shouting through a window: “Put your hands up, show me your hands.” A shot is then fired.

Ms Jefferson was pronounced dead at the scene in the early hours of Saturday. Her eight-year-old nephew is understood to also have been in the house at the time.

In a statement, Fort Worth Police Department said the officer fired the single shot after “perceiving a threat” inside the property. The body cam video also included images of a gun inside the residence, but it is unclear if the firearm was found near the woman.

A gun was found on the floor of Ms. Jefferson’s bedroom near the window. When Ms. Jefferson heard noises coming from outside, she had taken a handgun from her purse and pointed it toward the window, her 8-year-old nephew told officials, according to an arrest warrant released on Tuesday. 

But the other officer who responded with Mr. Dean said she could only see Ms. Jefferson’s face through the window when Mr. Dean fired, according to the warrant, and Chief Kraus (interim chief, Fort Worth Police Department) defended her right to have a gun in her own home. 

“It makes sense that she would have a gun if she felt that she was being threatened or that there was someone in the back yard,” he said at a news conference.

The shooting officer, who had been on the force since April 2018, had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Officer Aaron Y. Dean, who was standing in her backyard with a flashlight and a gun, resigned on Monday (14.10. 2019) hours before the police chief had planned to fire him.

Aaron Y. Dean

James Smith, the person who initially called police, said he had just been trying to be a good neighbour. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper: “I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault. Authorities said the body cam footage had been released to provide transparency but any video taken inside the house could not be distributed due to state law.

If I had never dialled the police department, she’d still be alive.”

Mr Smith said Ms Jefferson and her nephew lived at the address with an older woman, who had been in the hospital. “It makes you not want to call the police department,” he added. Mr Smith, had called a nonemergency line at 2:23 a.m. on Saturday to express concern that the doors of Ms. Jefferson’s house had been open for several hours. “I haven’t seen anybody moving around,” he told the dispatcher in a calm voice. “It’s not normal for them to have the doors open this time of night.” Mr. Smith’s niece later said that he was upset with how the police responded, and that he had never suggested a burglary was taking place.

Pastor B.R. Daniels Jr, a local activist, said at a press conference hours later that the police must stop “shooting first, asking questions later”.

He said: “We want a review of policy, procedures.

“How do you storm a house, kill a young lady, with an 8-year-old minor in the house, who could have been killed himself?”

14 October 2019, Aaron Dean arrested, charged with murder

A former Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot a woman while she was at home playing video games over the weekend was arrested and charged with murder on Monday, the latest development in a case that has sparked national outrage and renewed demands for police accountability.

The officer, Aaron Y. Dean, resigned earlier on Monday, hours before the police chief had planned to fire him, amid growing anger and frustration in the community that the woman, Atatiana Jefferson, had become yet another black person killed by the police, this time in the safety of her own home.

The case resulted in a rare murder charge against a police officer only hours after the interim Fort Worth police chief, Ed Kraus, announced that the department was conducting a criminal investigation into the officer’s actions and had reached out to the F.B.I. about the possibility of starting a civil rights investigation.

“I get it,” Chief Kraus said of the widespread public anger that followed the release of body camera video in the case. It showed that Ms. Jefferson had been given no warning that it was a police officer who had crept into her backyard, shined a light into her bedroom window and shouted, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” immediately before firing a single fatal shot. 

“Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” the chief said.

The unusual and rapid developments, which followed a similar case in nearby Dallas where a black man had been shot by an off-duty police officer in his own apartment, highlighted longstanding tensions in Fort Worth, where residents have frequently complained about abuse at the hands of the police. Since June, Fort Worth officers have shot and killed six people. 

“A murder charge and an arrest is a good start — it’s more than we are used to seeing,” S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer who is representing Ms. Jefferson’s family, said on Monday night. But like many others, he said he was waiting to see how the case was prosecuted. 

“Fort Worth has a culture that has allowed this to happen,” he said. “There still needs to be a reckoning.”

24 October 2019, Atatiana’s funeral

Filled with prayers, gospel music and calls for justice, Ms. Jefferson’s funeral was both a joyful celebration of her life and an emotional outcry against police abuses and racial profiling. The mayor of Fort Worth, the police chief and a large number of police officers looked on in silence as eulogists condemned the injustice of Ms. Jefferson’s death — she was a black woman shot by a white police officer in her own home — and criticized what they described as the failure of many police officers to protect and serve without regard to skin color.

“Many of us are tired of talking to our kids about the police,” said the Rev. Bryan L. Carter, the senior pastor of Concord Church in southwest Dallas, where the funeral took place. When he described how many people were tired of racial profiling, and of protesting to show that black lives indeed matter, several people stood up and applauded.

Ms. Jefferson was shot from outside her bedroom window in the early hours of Oct. 12, after her neighbor had called a nonemergency police line and asked officers to check on the house. The neighbor had noticed that the doors were open, unusual for the middle of the night. 

Ms. Jefferson was up late playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew. It had been a difficult week: Her mother was in the hospital, and her other sister, Amber Carr, was recovering from heart surgery. Ms. Jefferson, who often played disciplinarian to her nephew — teaching him how to mow the lawn and creating a structured schedule to help him get ready for school in the mornings — was playing the role of the fun aunt that night, staying up late to play Call of Duty with him.

When two officers responded to the neighbor’s call at around 2:30 a.m., they did not announce themselves as the police as they crept around the yard and peered into the house. When she heard noises outside, Ms. Jefferson grabbed a handgun from her purse and pointed it toward the bedroom window, her nephew told the police afterward.

Texas’ castle doctrine law, on the books since 2007, is similar to many “stand your ground” laws and gives residents a strong legal defense to the use of deadly force in their homes if they perceive a threat.

When one of the officers, Aaron Y. Dean, approached the window and saw Ms. Jefferson inside, he shouted, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” Almost immediately, he fired a single fatal shot through the window. Mr. Dean, 34, later resigned from the department and was charged with murder.

Ms. Jefferson, known by her nickname Tay, was the youngest of what her family called the “A team” — four siblings whose given names all started with the letter A. She had big dreams, and worked hard to attend college at Xavier University of Louisiana, where she graduated in 2014 with a degree in biology. She hoped to one day become a doctor. 

“She was part of the first generation of people in my family to go to college,” said Ashley Carr, 35, who lives in Houston and works as a budget analyst for the Houston Independent School District. “There were plenty of days of struggling, plenty of days of eating ramen noodles for dinner. But that wasn’t a deterrent for her.”

Recently, Ms. Jefferson had been selling medical equipment while studying and saving up to apply for medical school, Ms. Carr said. But after their mother got sick, Ms. Jefferson agreed to move away from Dallas, where she had been living with a roommate, to Fort Worth, where she moved in with their mother, their sister Amber Carr and Amber’s sons, who are 4 and 8. 

Ms. Jefferson taught the 8-year-old how to dress himself in the mornings and get ready on time for school, and took the 4-year-old to an indoor playground for his birthday, where she showed him how to go down a slide, her family recalled. Their bond was so close, “sometimes people think that they are her kids and not mine,” Amber Carr said at a news conference this month.

Ashley Carr, who does not have children, recalled how she and Ms. Jefferson had bonded over their “fur babies,” which included Ms. Jefferson’s current brood of three cats and two dogs. The sisters also dabbled in following the stock market together. “We were like, ‘Did you see such and such went down today about 10 points?’” she said. The sisters had no money in the market, she said, “but it was just the point of, that was our camaraderie.”

Now, Ashley Carr has been left to make frequent trips to the house in Fort Worth where Ms. Jefferson was shot. She has been feeding and looking after Ms. Jefferson’s pets, including the dogs, Olive and Little Bit. She plans to take the pets back to Houston to stay with her.

“It’s so wrong,” she said. “Think about all the times you’re at home, sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, and you heard something. It could have been anybody. She wasn’t doing anything wrong. I can’t even say ‘wrong place, wrong time,’ because she was in her house.

20 December 2019, grand jury indicts Aaron Y. Dean for murder

A former Fort Worth police officer accused of fatally shooting a woman inside her home in October has been indicted for murder. A Tarrant County grand jury indicted Aaron Dean Friday morning. A trial date has not yet been announced.

At a press conference Friday, Jefferson’s family called news of the indictment a “relief.” When I heard it, it was definitely surreal because it was kind of facing the fact that this is the reality we are having to face at this moment,” Ashley Carr, Jefferson’s sister said. Atatiana Jefferson’s mother also spoke with reporters via Skype for the first time. Hospitalized with congestive heart failure, Yolanda Carr became emotional recalling the moment she heard Dean had been indicted. “Even though I know we have a long way to go, at least we got the charge on him that he murdered my baby,” Carr said. She became emotional while talking about missing her daughter during the holidays. ” She won’t be home for Christmas,” said Carr.

Sources: The Independent, NY Times, nbcdfw.com

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