A Fort Worth, Texas, police officer is on leave after shooting and killing a Black woman inside a home early Saturday after a concerned neighbor dialed police to perform a welfare check.
Atatiana Jefferson, 28, died around 2:30 a.m. after an officer fired at her through a window of the home, The Dallas Morning News reported. Police initially reported that Jefferson lived at the residence, however the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office said she lives in Dallas.
Relatives said she was inside watching her 8-year-old nephew at the time.
Neighbor James Smith called the police department’s non emergency line after noticing the front door was flung open and all the lights were on. Now, he says he regrets making the call at all.
“I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset,” Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And I feel it’s partly my fault. “If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive.”
“There was no reason for her to be dead, because there was nothing violent going on,” he added. “There was no distress at this particular property. They had no reason to come here with guns drawn.”
Body camera video released by the Fort Worth Police Department shows the officer in question searching the perimeter of the home with a flashlight before entering what appears to be the backyard. Moments later, he shines his light on one of the home’s windows and yells “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!”
Within a second of these commands a single shot is then fired, and the screen goes black.
Officers immediately provided emergency medical care, but Jefferson was pronounced dead at the scene, per the medical examiner’s office.
He said: “If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with? Do you just ignore crime or ignore something that’s not right?" pic.twitter.com/w7nvgtOIwy— Jack Howland (@JHowl04) October 12, 2019
In a statement, Fort Worth PD detailed the fatal encounter and said the officer opened fire after “perceiving a threat.” Officers also discovered a firearm in the bedroom, however, it’s unclear whether Jefferson, 28, was holding it at the time she was shot.
“She would never have been a threat to anyone,” the victim’s aunt, Venitta Body, told local station NBC 5. “This is why this is so hard to conceive.”
Smith, who said he’s still grappling with the guilt of calling police in the first place, recalled hearing a loud bang and seeing several police officers swarm the home. They arrived some 15 minutes after he called and asked police to please check on his neighbors.
“It makes you not want to call the police department,” he told the Star-Telegram. “If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with? … They tell you, ‘If you see something, say something,” “Well, if you do that and you cause somebody to lose their life, it makes you not want to do that. And that’s sad.”
The incident comes a little over a year after a similar incident rocked the neighboring city of Dallas. Former officer Amber Guyger was recently convicted of murdering her neighbor, 26-year-old Botham Jean, after allegedly mistaking his apartment for her own.
Fort Worth police hasn’t identified the officer involved. However, he’s described as a white male who’s been with the department since April 2018. He’ll remain on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.
The case will be handed to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Law Enforcement Incident Team for review, according to police.
“The Fort Worth Police Department shares the deep concerns of the public and is committed to completing an extremely thorough investigation of this critical police incident to its conclusion,” the department said in a statement. “As this investigation continues, information will be forthcoming in as timely a manner as possible.”
A GoFundMe campaign has since been launched to help Jefferson’s family with funeral costs and other expenses.
Watch more in the video below.