Police Race Violence Against Women

Fort Worth Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Atatiana Jefferson in Her Own Home Charged with Murder

The Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black woman in her own home has been charged with murder.

Early Saturday morning Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, 28, was shot and killed by a police officer inside her own home after a neighbor called a non-emergency police number for a wellness check on her.

After seeing that two doors of her home were ajar, Jefferson’s neighbor, James Smith, called a non-emergency Fort Worth police number around 2 a.m., asking for a wellness check on Jefferson, who had been living with an aunt who had been in the hospital and her 8-year-old nephew.

In a statement, the Fort Worth Police Department said that officers from its central division responded to the call at 2:25 a.m. and searched the perimeter of the house on the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue. After seeing someone through the window of the home, one officer drew his weapon, yelled for the person to put their hands up and fired the one shot that would kill Jefferson — all in less than four seconds.

“The individual, a black female, who resides at the residence succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased on the scene,” the Fort Worth Police Department wrote in their statement. “The officer, a white male who has been with the department since April of 2018, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome [of] the critical police incident investigation.”

The officer, Aaron Dean, was immediately put on administrative leave and later resigned before he could be fired. Following his resignation, he was arrested and charged with murder. Over the weekend, Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Correction Center and later released on $200,000 bond, according to jail officials.

“Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations of several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct,” said the Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus. Body camera footage provides some details of the shooting, including how quickly it happened. The footage also reveals that the officers did not identify themselves to Jefferson before she was killed.

“Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” said Chief Kraus. “I get it. We’re trying to train our officers better.”

However, community members still have concerns. Hundreds of people gathered in front of Jefferson’s home Sunday evening, chanting and calling for Dean to be prosecuted. Monday, after the former officer was charged, many were cautious about declaring victory. “Fort Worth has a culture that has allowed this to happen,” said S. Lee Merrit, a lawyer representing Jefferson’s family. “There still needs to be a reckoning.” The Fort Worth Police Department is familiar with criticism: the previous police chief was fired in May and Fort Worth officers have fatally shot six people since June.

In response to a task force’s recommendations, in September the City Council created a police monitor position, set up a police cadet program and began a diversity and inclusion program. After Jefferson’s death, Mayor Betsy Price said the city was planning to have national experts review the Fort Worth Police Department and its policies.

The death of Jefferson comes less than two weeks after Amber Guyger, a former police officer in nearby Dallas, was convicted of murder for fatally shooting a man in his home that she mistook for her own last year. In both instances, the officer was white, and the victim was Black, raising nationwide questions about police practices and the danger of racial profiling.

Sources: Twitter 10/12/19; NBC News 10/14/19; NY Times 10/15/19

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