(USA TODAY) — Community activists and the family of a black woman fatally shot by police in her Fort Worth home after playing video games with her nephew are expressing outrage and demanding justice.
The shooting early Saturday of Atatiana Jefferson comes less than two weeks after Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was convicted of fatally shooting Botham Jean, a black man killed in 2018 as he ate ice cream in his apartment.
Police released almost two minutes of body camera video of the Fort Worth shooting that shows officers, armed with guns and flashlights, circling the home. The video ends with an office shouting “Put your hands up, show me your hands” before the sound of one gunshot rings out.
Jefferson, 28, was shot through a window. The officer who shot her was identified by police only as a white male who has been on the force for about 18 months. Police also released a photo of a gun found in the home.
Lawyer S. Lee Merritt, who represents the families of Jean and of Jefferson, said Jefferson had been playing video games with a nephew before Saturday’s shooting. He said police had provided no connection between the gun found inside the home and the shooting.
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“The murder of this innocent woman represents a breaking point,” Merritt said. “Atatiana Jefferson should be enjoying her family today. A clear message has been sent – we are no longer safe in our own homes.”
Police said officers had responded to a call from a neighbor who noticed the home’s door was open at about 2:30 a.m. Officers arrived at the home, found the door open, searched the perimeter and observed a person standing inside near a window, police said in a statement.
“Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot, striking the person inside the residence,” the statement said.
Jefferson died at the scene, the statement said. The officer was placed on administrative leave. Police said body camera video from outside the house was released in an effort to provide full transparency, but that privacy rights restricted release of video from inside the home.
The department “shares the deep concern of the public” the statement said, promising a thorough investigation.
“Before law enforcement goes about their pattern of villainizing this beautiful peaceful woman, turning her into a suspect, a silhouette, or threat, let me tell you about 28 y/o #AtatianaJefferson ‘Tay’,” Merritt said in a Facebook post.
Merritt said Jefferson was a pre-med graduate of Xavier University who worked in pharmaceutical sales. And she was very close to her family, he said.
“She was the auntie that stayed up on Friday night playing video games with her 8 year old nephew,” Merritt said. “Her mom had recently gotten very sick, so she was home taking care of the house and loving her life. There was no reason for her to be murdered. None. We must have justice.”
Neighbor James Smith, who called police about the open door, said he was being a good neighbor.
“There was no reason for her to be dead, because there was nothing violent going on. … They had no reason to come here with guns drawn,” he told nbcdfw.com. “I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault. If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price released a statement promising prayers, love and support for the family – and a thorough investigation.
Community activists and religious leaders also expressed support for the family and for a thorough investigation, telling nbcdfw.com the probe must be expedited.
Brotherhood Movement member Malikk Ed referred to the Guyger trial, where the judge hugged Guyger after she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“We will not stand down on this one,” Ed said. “There’s no Kumbaya for this one. There’s no forgiveness for this one. There’s no judge-hugging-officer for this one.”
Bishop Mark Kirkland, with the Greater Saint Mark Church, said he could help his flock learn how to survive urban warfare. But he wasn’t sure how to guard against this type of shooting.
“Who is going to teach my village what is it like to survive in your own home?” he said. “I’m calling on the Chief of Police, I’m calling on the Mayor. I’m calling on all the leadership of this city to move with lightning speed because for this thing to go at a horse and buggy pace would be catastrophic.”