A Texas pre-med graduate student was shot and killed in her own Fort Worth home over the weekend after her neighbor called a non-emergency number after noticing the student’s front door was open.
That wellness check for Atatiana Jefferson, 28, ultimately resulted in her being shot dead by the police. The incident is prompting anger in the state over yet another black person shot by police in their own home.
Jefferson’s neighbor, James Smith, said he called a non-emergency number for a welfare check on Jefferson. He knew she was at home playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew but the front door was open and something didn’t look right to him, he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Police arrived at the scene a little before 2:30 am on Saturday, and did indeed find the front door open, the Fort Worth Police Department said in a statement. Then, they went around the back.
“Responding officers searched the perimeter of the house and observed a person standing inside the residence near a window. Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot, striking the person inside the residence,” they wrote.
Jefferson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Bodycam footage obtained by the Dallas Morning News shows an officer walking around the back of Jefferson’s home. He shines a flashlight into a dark room through a window and yells, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands! Show me —" while shooting through the window.
“The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting,” Lt. Brandon O'Neil, a spokesman for the department, said at a press conference on Sunday. Additionally, the police did not park in front of the home — rather, they parked down the street — or put on any sirens.
O'Neil confirmed that the 8-year-old nephew was in the home at the time of the shooting.
Investigators claim there was a weapon inside the home, and video released by police shows what appears to be two guns. However, everything around the firearms are blurred out. Police have not said if any gun allegedly found in the home was related to the shooting.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for both Jefferson's family and the family of Botham Jean, an unarmed black man who was shot dead in his home by an off-duty officer in Dallas, expressed worry to CNN that police were villainizing the grad student. He said he thinks they could be "turning her into a suspect, a silhouette or threat."
He tweeted that Jefferson heard a noise from her backyard and went to investigate when she was shot.
According to Jefferson’s Facebook page, she studied biochemistry at Xavier University of Louisiana where she also worked.
"Tonight we received distressing news that a member of our Xavier family died as a result of a police shooting," a university spokesperson said in a statement immediately following the incident. "Our prayers and thoughts are with her family and friends as we gather as a community in prayer. As we wait for the details of this incident to unfold, let us cling to our mission of justice and humanity and seek answers to our tragedy."
Jefferson’s father, Marquis Jefferson, referenced the Botham Jean case and the instantly famous hug that Jean's brother gave the officer who killed him in the courtroom, telling CBS News, "I don't want no hug. That's my one and only daughter. I'll never forget that.”
While the officer who shot Jefferson was not named, police said he was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
"The members of the Fort Worth Police Department share your very real and valid concerns, as do the members of this city and people across the country," O'Neil said at the press conference.
The shooting has already prompted at least one protest, according to Fox4News in Dallas Fort-Worth, as well as outrage across the nation.
“May we rage in her memory,” author Roxane Gay tweeted.
“I’m tired of the trauma,” author Angie Thomas tweeted. “I’m tired of realizing we aren’t even safe in our own homes."
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