Family of woman killed by Fort Worth police demands outside investigation of department

The family of a woman shot and killed by Fort Worth police in her home Saturday called for an independent investigation into the Fort Worth Police Department during a press conference Monday.

Atatiana Jefferson’s family and their attorney, S. Lee Merritt, also said they do not trust the Fort Worth Police Department to investigate the shooting themselves.

Former officer Aaron Dean was charged with murder Monday evening in the shooting. Police announced at a news conference earlier in the day that Dean had resigned before the chief had a chance to fire him, and that the department has been talking with the Texas Rangers about the state agency possibly handling the investigation.

City officials also say they plan to bring in an independent group to review Fort Worth police policies and training practices.

Merritt said the FBI, Department of Justice or another outside agency should examine the department’s policies and procedures.

“They created a deadly situation and responded in a way that is not unique to the city of Fort Worth,” Merritt said. “Anyone other than the city of Fort Worth, who is obviously incompetent to investigate itself, should be called in.”

Jefferson was shot at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday after her neighbor called police to request a welfare check at the home in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue.

Police said the officer did not announce he was with police, and that Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew was inside the room when she was shot.

Merritt said the Fort Worth Police Department as a whole is “problematic.” He mentioned Jacqueline Craig, whose 2016 arrest was captured on video and brought complaints of excessive force, and previous shootings by Fort Worth police officers.

“This is a pattern for that department, and it seems common when dealing with people of African-American descent,” he said.

Merritt also questioned the officers’ response to what started as a concerned neighbor’s phone call. The officers parked near the house but not in front of it, did not identify themselves and went into the backyard of the house instead of the open front door.

Merritt described their response as the “equivalent of SWAT.”

“We believe that the fact that this was a black neighborhood had a role in their response to it; the fact that they showed up in SWAT rather than your friendly neighborhood cop,” he said.

Amber Carr, Jefferson’s older sister, said her 8-year-old son saw the shooting. The two had been playing video games when they heard noises out back. Jefferson went to investigate and looked through the window. The officer in the backyard yelled, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” and shot her less than a second later, according to body camera footage released by police.

“This family is outraged and hurt and they are greatly appreciative of the community of folks from all over the world who have reached out to see what is going on in Fort Worth,” Merritt said.

About Atatiana Jefferson

Amber Carr said her sister was close with her nephews and taught them responsibility. She said she learned that her sister had been shot from her 8-year-old son.

Since then, she said, her son has helped her stay strong. She said Jefferson had a role in teaching him that strength.

“He’s my motivation and biggest encourager,” she said. “When I’m crying, he holds me, tells me to breathe in through my nose, out through my mouth.”

Jefferson studied biology at Xavier University in New Orleans. She was considering going back to med school and had moved home to help her mother, who was having health problems, her family said.

Ashley Carr, also Jefferson’s sister, read a statement from the family. She described Jefferson as kind, sweet, ambitious and nurturing. She said Jefferson was known for her honor, integrity and commitment, and she loved her family dearly.

“Our family now is asking the city of Fort Worth to exhibit the same characteristics of Atatiana Jefferson,” she said. “The family of Atatiana Jefferson — and the world — eagerly awaits your response to this tragedy. It is imperative that your response bends toward justice.”

This story was originally published October 14, 2019 1:03 PM.

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Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.
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