Fort Worth police release audio of neighbor’s call that preceded fatal shooting

Fort Worth police released the audio Sunday of a concerned neighbor’s call to a non-emergency number that preceded an officer’s fatal shooting of a woman.

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

At a press conference Sunday, police said the officer did not announce he was with police. Lt. Brandon O’Neil also said Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew was inside the room when Jefferson was shot.

James Smith called the non-emergency line at 2:23 a.m. He told a dispatcher his neighbor’s door was open and “it’s not normal for them to have the door open at this time.” He told the operator both cars were in the driveway.

He said both doors of the house were open and all the lights were on. The dispatcher asked his name, phone number and what the cars looked like. She told him that officers were on their way.

At 2:25 a.m., two officers were sent to the house, police said at the press conference. At 2:29 a.m., they parked nearby, but not in front of the house. They investigated on foot and went into the backyard.

“The officer observed a person through a rear window in the house and fired a shot at that person,” police said in a written statement. “The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting. What the officer observed and why he did not announce ‘Police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues.”

The department did not answer questions from media at the press conference. The officer who shot Jefferson is scheduled to be interviewed by the Major Case Squad on Monday morning. Chief Ed Kraus will hold a press conference on Monday, O’Neil said.

In a statement Saturday, Fort Worth police said the officer, “perceiving a threat,” drew his gun and “fired one shot striking the person inside the residence.”

Body camera footage of the shooting shows two officers using flashlights to check the perimeter of the house, inspecting two doors that are open with closed screen doors. At the back of house, one officer appears to see a figure through a dark window, and he quickly twists his body to the left.

“Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” he shouts through the window, his gun drawn. He then fires a single shot through the window, killing Jefferson.

Jefferson was a pre-med graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and working on pharmaceutical equipment sales, said S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney retained by Jefferson’s family. She was considering going back to medical school.

Leaders and community activists called for accountability and police reform after Saturday’s shooting. The Fort Worth Police Officers Association urged Fort Worth police to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation in a statement Sunday.

Merritt said Jefferson’s death is another example of excessive use of police force in Fort Worth. Since June, Fort Worth officers have shot seven people, six of them fatally.

This story was originally published October 13, 2019 5:24 PM.

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