On Saturday (October 12), a White Fort Worth Police Department officer entered the Texas home of Atatiana Jefferson and shot and killed her.
Fort Worth’s interim police chief, Ed Kraus, said on Tuesday (October 15) that he is “deeply sorry” for the actions of Aaron Dean, the officer responsible for the 28-year old Black woman’s death. Dean resigned from his position and was charged with murder on Monday (October 14). “Human life is a precious thing and should not have been taken from Ms. Jefferson,” Kraus told reporters. “This incident has eroded the trust that we have built with our community and we must now work even harder to ensure that trust is restored.”
Officers were responding to a non-emergency call from Jefferson’s neighbor James Smith early Saturday morning. Smith asked them to do a wellness check when he noticed that the young woman’s door had been left open, NPR reports:
Despite the non-emergency nature of the call, two police officers crept up to the house unannounced, their flashlights sweeping the yard. Then one spotted Jefferson peering out of a window.
In body camera footage released by the Fort Worth Police Department, an officer can be heard shouting, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” That was probably the last thing Jefferson heard.
Within two seconds of that warning, Officer Aaron Dean shot through Jefferson’s bedroom window. She died in her home; her nephew was in the same room, watching in shock.
Kraus told reporters that Dean was arrested at his attorney's office on Monday. He was held in Tarrant County Corrections Center briefly, then posted a $200,000 bond after three hours.
10/15/19 #NewsConference https://t.co/sJeTdn6HuB
rnt— Fort Worth Police (@fortworthpd) October 15, 2019
Civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who is representing Jefferson’s siblings, told CNN that the officer’s arrest is encouraging, but it’s not enough. “This officer was sent by someone. He didn’t come out on his own volition. He wasn’t working a beat. Someone in the higher command sent this officer,” Merritt said. “It should not end with the prosecution of one officer, and it certainly shouldn’t end with an arrest and an incomplete prosecution.”
Watch the family’s Monday press conference, courtesy of Austin, Texas, station KXAN:
Jefferson’s father, Marquis Jefferson, called his daughter’s death “senseless.”
“My daughter was 28-years-old. Had her whole life in front of her,” he said. He went on to say: “I have nothing against the neighbor. If you see something going on at my house with my daughter…you need to call police. But it’s the way that the police acted.”
Xavier University of Louisiana President Reynold Verret said in a statement that the death of Jefferson, who graduated from the school in 2014, pains the community:
“We are deeply dismayed by the news of another African American killed in her own home by the police. The mission of the police is to protect and serve, and all citizens should expect safety in their own homes. Sadly, our fathers and mothers must caution daughters and sons on their interactions with officers. Families in our communities hesitate to call on their protectors out of fear that they will be killed. That should not be. We know that many officers live out their calling and duty to their communities. Despite this, recent events demonstrate clearly that there is an urgent need to fix a law enforcement system and philosophy that is broken for some. Our communities should not fear the police. Trust must be established to repair a system that does not serve all equally.”
Other officials took to Twitter to react to Jefferson’s death:
The officer gave Atatiana Jefferson four seconds to respond before shooting and killing her.
rnttBeing Black in your own home shouldn't be a death sentence. https://t.co/92CLDWm85Y
rnt— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) October 13, 2019
Atatiana Jefferson should still be alive. We need real reform, now—including federal standards for the use of force that incorporate proven strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives. https://t.co/JqaJtXRuPd
rnt— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 13, 2019
"Sorry doesn't cut it" — Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price's statement #AtatianaJefferson pic.twitter.com/lsPt5Gvtvs
rnt— KERA News (@keranews) October 14, 2019