A white Fort Worth police officer was jailed on a murder charge Monday in the fatal shooting of a black woman in her home.
Aaron Dean, 34, earlier resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department, and the chief said Dean would have been fired if he hadn’t quit.
Authorities said Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was shot to death Saturday when police responded to a call from a neighbor on a non-emergency line that Jefferson’s front door had been left open.
Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said Monday there was no indication that officers had knocked on the front door, and that Jefferson died from a gunshot fired through a window accessible from the fenced-in backyard.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year. In that case, white Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger fatally shot her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook it for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
In a statement released over the weekend, Fort Worth police said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his weapon and fired after “perceiving a threat.” The body-camera video released by police shows two officers searching the home from the outside with flashlights before one shouts, “Put your hands up, show me your hands.” One shot is then fired through a window.
In the video, the officer does not identify himself as police.
“Nobody looked at this video and said that there’s any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” Kraus said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called for “justice and closure” for Jefferson’s family.
Family members on Monday described Jefferson as a smart, nurturing woman who recently moved in with her ailing mother to help care for her. A sister, Ashley Carr, said Jefferson embodied honor, integrity, commitment and service.
“Any neighborhood would be proud to have her as a neighbor, and any city would be proud to have her as a citizen,” Carr said.
A single bullet hole was visible in the window of Jefferson’s single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street outside.
The Fort Worth Police Department said nearly two-thirds of its 1,100 officers were white, as of June 30. Just more than 20% were Latino and about 10% were black.
Police relations with the public have been strained after other recent shootings. In June, the department released body-camera footage of officers fatally shooting a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired on in 10 days.
Kraus became the city’s interim police chief in May after the previous chief was fired.
The Fort Worth Police Officers Assn. issued a statement Sunday calling for “a thorough and transparent investigation” into the shooting.
The Police Department said it released the body-camera footage soon after the shooting for transparency‘s sake but that any “camera footage inside the residence” could not be distributed because of state law.
The body-camera video included blurred still frames showing a gun inside a bedroom. It’s unclear whether the firearm was found near Jefferson, and police have not said that the officer who shot her thought she was holding a gun. The police statement released Saturday said only that officers who entered the residence after the shooting found a firearm, and Lt. Brandon O’Neil would not answer reporters’ questions Sunday on why police released images of the gun.
O’Neil said the officer would meet with investigators on Monday about the shooting. Police previously had said the officer, a white man, joined the department in April 2018.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson’s home Sunday night for a vigil after earlier demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on part of Interstate 35.
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, the university said. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going back to medical school.