Texas Police Officer Fatally Shoots Woman Playing With Her Nephew In Her Own Home

Trigger warning: gun violence, death

Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was fatally shot in her own home by a Fort Worth, Texas, police officer while she was playing video games with her 8-year-nephew on Saturday. The officer, whose name has not yet been released, was reportedly responding to a neighbor’s request for a welfare check on the home, authorities said.

The officer, identified as a “white male who has been with the department since April of 2018,” has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, police said. Jefferson was shot through a window at around 2:30 a.m. after officers responded to a call from a neighbor who said the front door of the home was open, the Fort Worth Police Department said in a statement.

“Responding officers searched the perimeter of the house and observed a person standing inside the residence near the window,” according to the statement. “Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside.”

Officers then entered the home and provided emergency medical assistance to Jefferson, but she was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. In a video from a body camera worn by the officer who fired the shot, he can be seen walking up to the front of the house and looking inside. The footage shows the storm doors were closed, but the two main doors behind them were open. There were lights on inside the home and a car was parked in the driveway.

After checking the front of the home, the officer can be seen going into the backyard, turning left and shining a flashlight through a window. He then reaches for his gun, points it at the window and yells, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” before opening fire.

The police department, which says they found a gun inside the home, has not clarified whether officers ever knocked on a door or identified themselves before Jefferson was killed. The woman, a pre-med graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana who worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales, was living in the home to help take care of her mother, who is ill, according to Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing the victim’s family.

He stated that she was playing video games with her nephew when they heard a noise in the backyard. When she went to the window to check if someone was there, she was shot, he said. “The hardest part about it is I spoke with an 8-year-old who explained what it was like inside of the house,” Merritt told reporters Saturday.

Neighbor James Smith had called the department’s non-emergency phone number to report the doors to the home were open and the lights were on. He said he was worried about Jefferson’s mother since she has health issues. “I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault,” Smith told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive.”

Community members have called for a third-party to investigate the shooting and are asking for an indictment of the officer. “She was very close to her family. She was the auntie that stayed up on Friday night playing video games with her 8-year old-nephew,” Merritt stated. “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.”

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Two weeks ago former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who is white, was convicted of murdering her unarmed black neighbor, Botham Jean, in his own apartment. Guyger had entered the apartment while Jean was watching TV, saying she believed an intruder was in her apartment, which was a floor below. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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