The Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a woman in her own home this weekend resigned before he could be fired, the city’s Police Chief Edwin Kraus said Monday.
Twenty-eight-year-old Atatiana K. Jefferson — who was black — was killed by the white officer, identified by police on Monday as Aaron Dean, when he fired a shot through her bedroom window.
“Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him,” Kraus said at a press conference on Monday, adding the officer broke protocols on use of force and de-escalation
Jefferson’s family demanded in a separate news conference on Monday that the officer immediately be fired and that city recuse itself from the investigation.
“Fort Worth needs to recuse themselves from this investigation,” said S. Lee Merritt, the lawyer for Jefferson’s family. “They need to bring in an outside agency.”
Asked why he and the family did not trust local authorities to investigate, Merritt replied: “Experience.”
Kraus said he reached out to the Texas Rangers, but they declined to take on the investigation at the time. He also said they sent information for the FBI to look into potential civil rights violations. Kraus said Dean, who joined the Fort Worth police in 2018, has not been cooperative with investigators.
The family demanded swift repercussions in a press conference on Monday, adding the officer — who at that point had not been identified — should be charged with a crime. Kraus said he would have an update on any criminal charges against Dean on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Fort Worth and Dallas community is once again left reeling by a police-involved death that is difficult to understand — Jefferson’s death comes just a few weeks after the former cop who killed unarmed black man Botham Jean was sentenced to a decade in prison.
Dozens of people gathered near Jefferson’s home Sunday night for a candlelight vigil that doubled as a protest, with chants of “no justice, no peace.”
"It's like from the moment we got the call, it's been more and more inconceivable and more confusing. And there has nothing been done in order to take away that confusion," Venitta Body, Jefferson's aunt, told CBS.
Just before being killed, Jefferson had been playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew. Jefferson had recently moved into the home to help take care of her ailing mother, family said.
Fort Worth, Texas police were called to the house via the non-emergency phone line after a concerned neighbor saw her door was open in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Bodycam footage from the incident shows the officer — now identified as Dean — approaching the front of the home, where only the screen door was closed. Lights were on in the house and a car was parked out front.
The officer then went around the side of the house, approached the bedroom window, yelled “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” and immediately fired a shot through the glass.
Merritt said on Monday that the family appreciated the fact that the bodycam footage was released quickly, but questioned why the police also released images of a gun in Jefferson’s home, which they did not state was a factor in the shooting.
“They threw in an unrelated photograph of a firearm, in order to, I guess, impugn some bad act or blame [on Jefferson]… That’s more like the Fort Worth we know,” Merritt said at the press conference.
Kraus said on Monday that, “in hindsight” releasing images of the gun “was a bad thing to do.”
Bodycam footage showed Dean never identified himself as police before shooting Jefferson. Emergency medical services were administered but were not able to save her life.
“What the officer observed and why he did not announce ‘police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues,” Kraus told reporters on Sunday.
There are obvious and disturbing parallels between Jefferson’s killing and the death of Jean, who was killed last year in his own home in Dallas by an off-duty cop. His killer, Amber Guyger, was just sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this month.
“I’m still struggling with the fact that a neighbor called, concerned about a neighbor, and this is the result that came from that care and concern,” Kelly Allen Gray, a city councilwoman who represents the neighborhood where Jefferson was killed, told the New York Times. “That cannot be the end of stories of people who care about each other. This cannot be the ending.”
A GoFundMe for the family has raised more than $145,000 as of Monday morning. Amber Carr, Jefferson’s sister and the mother of the small boy who witnessed the shooting, said her son has comforted her as she struggles to deal with the trauma of her sister’s death.
“He holds me, he hugs me, these are the things I should be doing for him … he’s helping me to be strong and I believe my sister had a big part in that,” she said.
Cover: In this Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, image made from a body camera video released by the Fort Worth Police Department an officer shines a flashlight into a window in Fort Worth, Texas. A black woman was fatally shot by a white Fort Worth, Texas, officer inside the home early Saturday after police were called to the residence for a welfare check, authorities said. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office identified her as 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson. (Fort Worth Police Department via AP)