Fort Worth Police Officer Fatally Shoots Woman Inside Her Home | KERA News

Fort Worth Police Officer Fatally Shoots Woman Inside Her Home

Oct 12, 2019

A white Fort Worth police officer fatally shot a black woman in her home early Saturday morning.

The woman has been identified as 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson.

Police say officers arrived at a home on East Allen Avenue around 2:30 a.m. Saturday after getting a call that the front door was open. Officers searched the outside of the home with flashlights and observed a person standing inside the home, near a window.

Body camera footage shows an officer yelled: "Put your hands up; show me your hands!" 

“Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot, striking the person inside the residence,” a police statement says.

Officers entered the home and provided emergency medical care. A firearm was found inside the home, authorities say. But police haven't said that the officer who shot her thought she had a gun.

The police department released body camera footage soon after the shooting, but video taken inside the house isn't being released due to state public information law. Evidence is being collected to be sent to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.

Police Lt. Brandon O'Neil said Sunday that the officer, who's been on the force since April 2018, is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation and will be interviewed about the fatal shooting on Monday. His name was not released.

At a brief news conference at police headquarters, O'Neil confirmed that the officer did not announce he was police before he fired the fatal shot and that his failure to do so is part of the department's investigation.

O'Neil also confirmed that Jefferson's 8-year-old nephew was in the room with Jefferson when she was shot. He said representatives of the police department have spoken with the woman's family and "shared our serious and heartfelt concern for this unspeakable loss." Her family has said she was watching her nephew at the time.

O'Neil declined to answer reporters' questions and said Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus plans to conduct a more in-depth news conference on Monday.

Demands for transparency

In Fort Worth, community activists, black community leaders and pastors say they want transparency from the police department during the investigation.

 

Fort Worth Pastor Kyev Tatum has long worked on community-police relations. In front of the house after the shooting, he asked people to pray for the city.

“Our city can't take too much more of this kind of reckless and endangerment at the hands of the Fort Worth Police Department,” Tatum said in a video posted on Facebook.

 

Lee Merritt, an attorney for Jefferson’s family, says he expects a thorough investigation. Jefferson was with her 8-year-old nephew inside the home when police arrived.

“They were playing video games when they heard someone creeping around outside,” Merritt said. “She went to investigate at the window. An officer was on the other side. He shouted commands and before she had a moment to respond, he shot her to death. That’s murder.”

Merritt said officers overreacted at the house and he doesn’t understand how people inside their homes can make officers feel threatened.

“There’s no justification for the use of deadly force,” he said.

Pastor B. R. Daniels Jr. of Beth Eden Baptist Church in Fort Worth says the police officer should be fired. 

“We demand an immediate arrest of this officer," he wrote on Facebook. "We demand that this officer be charged with murder. ... We will not play nice and be understanding! We want justice now and we will not settle for anything less!”

The Tarrant County Coalition for Community Oversight posted on Facebook: “This is bigger than one officer. This entire department and city government are implicated and must be held accountable.”

Reaction from police, elected officials

In a statement, the Fort Worth police department said it “shares the deep concerns of the public and is committed to completing an extremely thorough investigation."

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price says police leaders are "acting with  immediacy and transparency to conduct a complete and thorough investigation."

"Writing a statement like this is tragic and something that should never be necessary," the mayor wrote. "A young woman has lost her life, leaving her family in unbelievable grief. All of Fort Worth must surround Atatiana Jefferson’s family with prayers, love and support."

Fort Worth City Council member Kelly Allen Gray says the shooting is an example “of the negative impact gun violence inflicts upon our community.”

“It is my sincere prayer that FWPD nor the media victimize the victim, who was in her home when a neighbor called for a welfare check,” she wrote on Facebook. “We can’t continue to have police or gun violence harm our community.”

A statement from the Fort Worth Police Officers Association described what happened Saturday morning as “heartbreaking.” The association says it hopes a transparent investigation will allow it to gain clarity and understanding of what happened.

 

“Police officers take an oath to protect and serve all citizens in our great city and it is every officers’ worst fear to use deadly force in the line of duty,” the statement says. “We are thankful for our community leaders who seek to unite during times of grief instead of divide and we hope that collaboration and peace will guide is forward.”

Neighbor reacts

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram interviewed a neighbor, who said he called a non-emergency police number so authorities could check on Jefferson. James Smith saw a door was open and got concerned. He told the Star-Telegram he was trying to be a good neighbor when he called police.

“I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault,” Smith told the Star-Telegram. “If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive.”

Shooting follows Guyger murder trial

The shooting comes less than two weeks after a white former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor inside his own apartment. Amber Guyger said during her trial that she mistook Botham Jean's apartment for her own, which was one floor below Jean's. Guyger, 31, was convicted of murder for Jean's September 2018 death.

Video: Fort Worth PD releases body camera video

Read the Fort Worth PD statement

This is a developing story, which has been updated. The Associated Press contributed to this report, as did KERA's Bill Zeeble and Courtney Collins.