Atatiana Jefferson was up into the wee hours of Saturday morning playing video games with her nephew. It was a call from a concerned neighbor that would bring officers to her home, one of them killing her with a single shot.
Now, James Smith says he regrets using the Fort Worth Police Department’s non-emergency line to request a welfare check on his neighbor. Concerned, he made the call after noticing the front door was open, and the lights were all on.
“Uh, I’m calling about my neighbor,” Smith tells the dispatcher in audio of the call released by police over the weekend. “Well, the front doors have been open since 10 o’clock ( p.m.) and I haven’t seen anybody moving around.”
“It’s not normal for them to have both of the doors open this time of night,” he added.
According to Fort Worth police, officers were dispatched to the home where relatives said Jefferson was watching her 8-year-old nephew. Police initially said Jefferson, 28, lived at the residence, but the county medical examiner’s office said she actually lived in Dallas.
Two officers arrived on the scene but parked nearby, not in front of the home. They proceeded to investigate on foot.
In body camera video released by the department, the officer who police are saying fired the fatal shot is seen 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!”
A single gunshot rings out, and the video goes dark
. “The officer observed a person through a rear window in the house and fired a shot at that person,” police said in a written statement.
Jefferson was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said. Police later confirmed the victim’s young nephew was in the room when Jefferson was shot.
“I am shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset,” a distraught Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram after the shooting. “And I feel it’s partly my fault. There’s no reason for her to be dead because there was nothing violent going on.”
He further chided police for going in “with guns drawn.”
“If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive,” Smith added.
At a Sunday afternoon press conference, police officials said the cop in question never announced himself as a law enforcement officer before opening fire on Jefferson through the window.
“What the officer observed and why he did not announce ‘police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues,” Fort Worth Police Lt. Brandon O’Neil told reporters.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who’s now representing the Jefferson family, said he’s “broken” up over the tragedy. In a tweet, he wrote: “After putting on a strong face for the community and this family all day I have to admit … I can’t stop crying. I am broken.”
The officer, who’s unnamed but is described as a white cop who’s been on the force for a little over a year, remains on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Hear more in the clip below.