FORT WORTH, Texas — Updated at 4 p.m. Sunday with additional statements from national activists.
For activists and community leaders in Fort Worth, the parallels of the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson to the death of Botham Jean in Dallas are difficult to ignore. And the relative silence of the Fort Worth Police Department in these hours immediately after she was shot in her own home is deafening to a community wanting answers.
“I call on the police department to be totally transparent starting immediately to not hide anything, to not withhold anything from the community of Fort Worth,” said pastor B.R. Daniels of Beth Eden Baptist Church. “We are tired of this and it’s going to stop.”
Hours after the shooting, Fort Worth police did release a portion of the body camera footage that shows an officer firing a single shot from the backyard of Jefferson’s house into the bedroom where she was standing.
Police also released a photo of a handgun they found in the house afterward and only mentioned it briefly, with no context, in their written press release.
Neighbors and activists say the Fort Worth Police Department is not being transparent enough.
“If the officer is at fault then the officer must suffer the consequences,” said Rev. Kyev Tatum of the 3E Coalition, a group of ministers who work together to address concerns about police brutality.
“Our number one concern is, as in Dallas in Botham Jean’s case, on police entering the house, this time the police took it a step further and she was in her own house and shot and killed her. That is not only unacceptable, that’s murder,” said Dr. Michael Bennett of the Tarrant County Local Organizing Committee.
Part of the press release from the Fort Worth Police Department reads:
“Perceiving a threat the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence. Officers entered the residence locating the individual and a firearm and began providing emergency medical care.”
As of Saturday evening, the Fort Worth Police Department provided no further context and did not mention if the officer ever saw a gun.
That angers this community even more. Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew, whose family says was in the same bedroom with Jefferson when the officer fired through the window, says Jefferson had gone to the window because they heard noises outside.
“Don’t paint this sister as no villain. If you do that, if you paint this sister as a villain, this city’s gonna have hell to pay,” said pastor Dr. Michael Bell of Greater St. Stephen First Church. “Don’t paint this sister as no villain. They’re the ones who murdered. They murdered her and there’s no excuse for it.”
Pastors and activists also called Saturday for a federal investigation and called for Texas governor Greg Abbott and lieutenant governor Dan Patrick to come to Fort Worth to lead community meetings. And they are calling for the officer — as of this moment unidentified by the department — to be fired and prosecuted for murder.
“And we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired and we’re going to keep on talking about this until justice happens,” said Rev. Tatum. “We’re crying out to the Lord. Our only recourse at this point is for God almighty to hear our cry and come see about us.”
On Sunday, Color of Change, a national group dedicated to online racial justice, issued a statement about the shooting:
“First Botham Jean, now Atatiana Jefferson. Nowhere are Black people safe from police violence, not even in their own homes, living their own lives. We cannot imagine the shock and grief being experienced right now by Jefferson’s family and community.
"We don’t have to wait for the inevitable excuses and lies from police officials justifying their officer’s actions to reach a judgement [sic] on this case. The witness statements and released camera footage make clear that the officer’s actions in this case are indefensible. Fort Worth Police must release the name of the officer who killed Jefferson and move to fire him or her immediately. We also call for the launch of an independent investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor, because we do not trust Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson’s record on either police misconduct or fair treatment for the Black community.”
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