The interim chief of the Fort Worth Police Department held a press conference Tuesday in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson by a police officer, while she was in her home. The officer who shot Jefferson, Aaron Dean, resigned from the department and has been charged with murder.
Interim Police Chief Ed Krause apologized to Jefferson’s family and the larger Fort Worth community at the media event. He said that there are zero excuses for the incident, and that Dean will be held responsible for his actions.
“This incident has eroded the trust that we have built with our community and we must now work even harder to ensure that trust is restored,” Krause said.
Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman, was at her home playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when police officers responded to an “open structure call” made by a neighbor early Saturday morning.
Body camera footage released by the police shows Dean, a white man, outside the home, looking into Jefferson’s bedroom window and shouting, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” before firing a single bullet that killed Jefferson.
According to a police news release, Dean noticed a person inside and standing near the window while he was checking the perimeter, which police say was perceived as a threat.
Authorities say that when they entered Jefferson’s home, a gun was recovered from the bedroom, but did not say whether Jefferson was holding a weapon at the time the officer shot at her.
Kyev Tatum, a pastor and community activist who was on the scene shortly after the shooting, said that even if Jefferson was holding a weapon, it should not have justified the use of deadly force.
“If you hear some noise in your backyard early in the morning when you’re with your 8-year-old nephew, well of course anyone in their right mind is going to try to protect themselves and others, especially a child,” Tatum said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told NPR that she empathizes with Jefferson’s family and criticized the police officers involved for not following proper procedure.
“Even the body cam footage, it’s hard to see exactly what that officer saw,” said Price. “But it’s horrifying, as quick as he shot. He didn’t identify himself as a police officer.”
Jefferson’s family are calling for an independent investigation so that the Fort Worth Police Department is not investigating itself. The mayor told NPR she disagrees with their reasoning and said that she trusts internal affairs to make the right decisions.
The shooting instantly sparked fear and outrage in Texas’ black communities. Many drew similarities from this incident to the death of Botham Jean, who was killed in his own apartment by Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Earlier this month, Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in state prison.
Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.