Fort Worth Police Shooting Leaves Innocent Woman Dead

Another police shooting of an innocent African-American. This time in Fort Worth, Texas.

A Fort Worth, Texas officer is under investigation after a shooting incident in which an innocent African-American woman was killed by police officers in an incident that is suspicious to say the least:

A white Fort Worth police officer fatally shot a black woman in her home early Saturday, firing through a bedroom window while responding to a call about an open door at the residence, police said.

Officers were dispatched to the house in the city’s Hillside Morningside neighborhood at 2:25 a.m. after receiving an “open structure” call, according to a statement from the Fort Worth Police Department. A neighbor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he dialed a non-emergency line and requested a welfare check when he noticed that the door was ajar and the lights were on.

While searching the outside of the house, police said, an officer saw someone standing near a window. “Perceiving a threat the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” police said.

Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police, who said the officers provided emergency medical care.

Body-camera footage released by police Saturday shows two officers walking quietly around the side of the house and peering through two screen doors, then moving down a driveway into a backyard.

One officer approaches a closed first-floor window and shines a flashlight inside, then swiftly raises his gun. “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” he yells. A split-second later, he fires a shot through the window. He does not identify himself as an officer in the footage.

Along with the video, police released images of a firearm officers said they found at the scene, but did not indicate whether Jefferson was holding the weapon or positioned near it when the officer opened fire.

Officials did not release the officer’s name, describing him only as a white male who has been with the department since April 2018. He will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, according to the department.

The Dallas Morning News has more:

The fatal shooting of a 28-year-old black woman in her home by a white Fort Worth police officer has drawn swift condemnation, calls for police accountability and mourning for a life cut short.

Atatiana Jefferson became the sixth person since June who has been killed by one of the department’s officers. A seventh person was wounded.

Lt. Brandon O’Neil, a Fort Worth police spokesman, said at a brief news conference Sunday afternoon that two officers had been dispatched to the home in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue after a neighbor made a call early Saturday to the nonemergency police line. They arrived about 2:30 a.m. and walked into the backyard.

The officer who shot Jefferson did not announce himself as a police officer before firing through a bedroom window, O’Neil said.

That officer will be interviewed Monday and another news conference will be conducted later that day, he said.

“What the officer observed and why he did not announce police will be addressed as the investigation continues,” O’Neil said.

Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew was “inside the room” at the time of the shooting, O’Neil said.

O’Neil said police had communicated with Jefferson’s family and called her death an “unspeakable loss.”

Police did not take questions at Sunday’s news conference.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Jefferson’s family, said Jefferson had been playing video games with her nephew.

“Her mom had recently gotten very sick, so she was home taking care of the house and loving her life,” he wrote on Facebook. “There was no reason for her to be murdered. None. We must have justice.”

There are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered about this incident and the way that the responding police officers handled it. As reported, this was supposedly a “welfare check” prompted by a call from a concerned neighbor. This is not an uncommon thing for the police to do and generally follows a similar script regardless of what jurisdiction you’re in.

Typically, of course, one would expect that the first thing one would expect the responding officers to do in such a call is to go to the front door to see if they can get the person living there to answer. If not, then it’s typical to check the yard of the property to determine if there’s anything unusual. In this case, there’s no indication that the officers even went to the front door. Instead they walked around the property. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the fact that they did so at night and without having announced themselves and apparently while carrying flashlight that they shined in the windows of the house probably ended up worrying Jefferson, who was alone with her nephew at the time. Based on the way the rest of the events were described, it sounds like Jefferson may have looked out the window to see what was going on. It was at that point that the unidentified officer opened fire, killing Jefferson without even announcing that he was a police officer.

Why didn’t the officers go to the apparently open front door first since that was apparently the reason the neighbor called the police? Why didn’t they announce themselves as police officers? Why did the officer in question open first without even verifying who or what he saw in the window? These and other questions need to be asked and answered before this matter can be fully resolved.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Bill says:

    This country’s police are murderers. If they aren’t, they will cover up for those who are. To Serve and Protect their Own.

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  2. Kathy says:

    What happens when people stop feeling safe in their own homes, because the cops may show up and shoot you for no reason?

  3. Teve says:

    from a CNN story about it:

    Smith, the neighbor who called police, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he knew Jefferson was home with her nephew when he saw the doors of the house open, and was concerned about them.
    He told the newspaper he was trying to be a good neighbor and called authorities so they could check on Jefferson.
    “I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault,” he told the newspaper. “If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive.”

    that’s not the first time I’ve heard a black person say that.

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Well-regulated militia, indeed.

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  5. Bill says:

    @Kathy:

    What happens when people stop feeling safe in their own homes, because the cops may show up and shoot you for no reason?

    There will be a revolution one day. One innocent person too many will be killed for no reason and the public will throw a fit like no other seen in this country for over 150 years.

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  6. susan finney says:

    Poorer people are often the polices’ victims/wealthy neighborhoods and populations treated differently. If so many police are ‘afraid types’ they shouldn’t be policemen at all.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    On average there is one toddler-involved shooting per week in this country. The American attitude toward guns is sick, utterly, profoundly and inexcusably sick.

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  8. Gromitt Gunn says:

    This is why, every time I have had to call 911 to get an ambulance for my elderly mother, I start the call by saying that there is a medical emergency and my mother requires transport to the hospital.

    And every time, I pray that the dispatcher is actually listening to me enough to send EMTs and not cops. And that some random patrol officers doesn’t hear the dispatch and decide to stop by on his or her own to “help.”

    14
  9. Andrew says:

    Like the FOP stickers on cars, the “Blue Lives Matter “ flag is nothing but a way of making sure not only that the Police know you donated…but also as a way to let the potential murder the cop is itching to commit, will be on someone that respects their authorita!!

    If a cop entered my residence without a warrant or probable cause, and I shot them. I would be in prison. Or dead from the other cops wanting their vengeance.

  10. Hal_10000 says:

    The police are making a big deal about her having a gun in the house because you can see it in a freeze frame — as if the cop could see it that fast. Never mind why he didn’t just knock on the door or ring the bell but decided to skulk about in someone’s yard with a flashlight at the three in the morning. Good Grief.

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  11. SKI says:

    Why didn’t the officers go to the apparently open front door first since that was apparently the reason the neighbor called the police? Why didn’t they announce themselves as police officers? Why did the officer in question open first without even verifying who or what he saw in the window? These and other questions need to be asked and answered before this matter can be fully resolved.

    Because they have the mindset that they aren’t here to protect the citizenry but that the citizenry are enemies and they are warriors on a battlefield.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: I had to do that for both my parents in their final years. Sometimes the local cops would show up with the ambulance, sometimes not. (I was always clear I wanted only an ambulance.) The cops did nothing but hang around and get in the way. Were they looking for a crime?

    This story out of Ft. Worth is so depressing. That poor, innocent woman. So young.

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  13. DrDaveT says:

    I still haven’t found an answer to my repeated question: when did it become OK for cops to shoot first, and who initiated that policy? It’s a very bright line and I don’t even know when it was crossed, but it had to be within my lifetime.

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  14. Bill says:

    In other scumbag police news. Anyone remember Jeff Payne? He is now suing the Salt Lake City police department.

    Former detective who handcuffed Utah nurse sues Salt Lake City Police Department

  15. Bill says:

    This happened over a decade ago and I wrote at the time- “Don’t call 911 or ask a cop for help with your car(Like I did in 2004 and almost got arrested for waving down a police officer. As the jackass said, I could have been a rapist or something. Sheesh!)you may up being arrested or sued.”

    Just modify the above slightly. Shot, arrested, or sued. Our police have been out of control for over a decade.

  16. Mister Bluster says:

    NPR is reporting that the Fort Worth TX police officer that shot Atatiana Jefferson has resigned.

  17. CSK says:

    @DrDaveT: And when that query is addressed, I’d like mine answered: Why do the cops appear when you want an ambulance for a cardiac patient?

  18. Mister Bluster says:

    Also from the Dallas Morning News.
    Police Chief Ed Kraus said he intended to fire Aaron Dean, who had been on the force since April 2018, on Monday morning, but Dean resigned first.

  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    Why do the cops appear when you want an ambulance for a cardiac patient?

    There are probably several reasons. Today most squads carry emergency life support equipment and the LEO has been trained in the use. Often an officer can respond more quickly or is closer to the location of the emergency. You often see fire trucks respond to medical calls for the same reason. Many communities don’t own their own ambulance and rely on a private vendor. It typically takes longer to dispatch the vendor so the police and/or fire arrive to stabilize the victim and prepare them for transport. As a practical matter the responder has no idea what they will find when they arrive, a 90lb granny or a 390lb former defensive lineman. Better to have help on hand rather than need to call it if you need to carry someone down a flight of stairs.

    Typically in my community the police and/or fire trucks are on the site of a medical emergency 5-10 before the ambulance.

  20. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Thanks, but these cops brought no life-saving equipment, and in fact did absolutely nothing but stand around the bedroom and get in the way.

  21. Matt says:

    @SKI: Probably because the majority of new cops are former military.

    @Mister Bluster: Usually what occurs is the cop is then hired on by a police department a community over..

  22. Mister Bluster says:

    @Matt:..Usually what occurs is the cop is then hired on by a police department a community over..

    Sometimes they don’t even get that far away.

  23. mattbernius says:

    @Hal_10000:

    The police are making a big deal about her having a gun in the house because you can see it in a freeze frame.

    As with the killing of Philando Castile, I look forward to the NRA taking a strong stand about how just possessing a gun doesn’t justify getting shot by a cop.

    /s

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  24. Lit3Bolt says:

    This woman will only get justice because of bodycam footage. Otherwise some drugs would have been sprinkled on her body and the cops would have taken a week to work on their alibis.

    I’m disturbed about the panopticon as the next person, but if it’s the only thing that provides justice and accountability for horrendous behavior…

  25. de stijl says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    15 years ago this would have barely made the local news. The world is turning slowly but surely.

    That this made the news is news.

    Being shot down like a rabid dog is no longer swept under the rug.

  26. Gustopher says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    This woman will only get justice because of bodycam footage. Otherwise some drugs would have been sprinkled on her body and the cops would have taken a week to work on their alibis.

    And this is why I have trouble with Buttigieg since the shooting in South Bend — the shooting could have happened on any mayor’s watch, anywhere (sadly). But the police should have turned on their body cam and didn’t. The South Bend city government was not adequately measuring and monitoring compliance, and that’s the one thing I expect from a McKinsey consultant.

    There are any number of issues with body cams — but they are useless if they aren’t turned on.

  27. Hal_10000 says:

    @mattbernius:

    Yep. If you want to know why I’m a staunch Second Amendment supporters who hates the NRA, that’s Exhibit A.

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  28. Teve says:

    just checked the NRA’s Twitter feed. Lots of tweets about lots of gun incidents in the last week, absolute radio silence about this one.

  29. Learning says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I noticed this too. In the 90’s they were still in a lighter blue. In my little town a bunch of kids told a grocery store clerk that they had guns. I remember seeing the cop sitting them down outside the store and lecturing how stupid that was. Now they would have been shot.

  30. An Interested Party says:

    This woman will only get justice because of bodycam footage.

    If her killer gets the same sentence as Amber Guyger (a huge assumption at this point), will this woman really be getting justice…

  31. Kathy says:

    The killer cop has been charged with murder.

  32. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    Whoa!

    The world is changing.

  33. de stijl says:

    Enforcement of laws is essential to a stable and just society.

    A just society requires that we hold law enforcement people to the same standard if not higher than we do random citizens. They have guns, handcuffs, and the power of the state.

    It was a non-emergency wellness check. Use your damned head! Speculation, jumpy guy panicked and flinched. But why was his sidearm out and pointing at her?

    LEOs have a horrible tendency to view their role as an occupying force pacifying a hostile populace. They see their neighbors as the enemy. That must change.

  34. Scott says:
  35. Barry says:

    @Kathy: I think that that’s called being black or hispanic or poor.

  36. Monala says:

    @Learning: I grew up in a predominantly black Rust Belt city. Back in the ‘90s I was home from college for the summer when there was a police chase down our street. They were in pursuit of a drug dealer on a motorcycle. He lost control of the bike and slammed into my mom’s house.

    I remember the police asking my mom and me for a bunch of blankets and towels so they could stop his bleeding and prevent him from going into shock. The man did die, but the cops tried to save his life. I remember my mom chewing out the officers for the chase that endangered lives and damaged her house. They just accepted her scolding and handed her a number to call to try to get reimbursement for the damages. I recall my whole neighborhood coming out to watch the spectacle, along with the typical boisterousness and laughing that accompanies black folks hanging out, and the police just ignoring them while they did their work.

    I think back to that time and realize that policing really has changed for the worse.

  37. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl:

    Whoa! The world is changing.

    Maybe not as much as we might hope. It’s possible that the charge was murder only to make the conviction harder to get. I hope not but it is one of the steps in building the big blue wall.