Fort Worth Police Fatally Shot Black Woman in Her Home During 'Welfare Check'

A Black woman in Texas is dead after being fatally shot in her home by a police officer conducting a “welfare check.” Seconds after shouting commands, a white Fort Worth Police officer opened fire into Atatiana Koquice Jefferson’s bedroom, killing her.

The incident occurred in the early hours of October 12 after Jefferson’s neighbor James Smith called a non-emergency police number for a safety check. Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he placed the call after observing the doors to his neighbor’s home open with the lights on.

Jefferson, 28, was at home with her 8-year-old nephew when officers responded to the residence in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue at 2:25 a.m. The two were playing video games when they heard noises or movement outside, a family attorney told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Edited body-cam footage released by police officials show two officers using flashlights to check the perimeter of the house and looking at two doors that are open. One of the officers, who was identified on October 14 as Aaron Dean, appears to see a person through the window.

“Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” he can be heard shouting through the window, with his gun drawn. Just four seconds later, the officer fires a single shot, striking Jefferson.

At no point did he identify himself as a police officer. Lt. Brandon O’Neil told reporters on October 13 that what the officer observed during the incident and why he did not identify himself as a police officer “will be addressed as the investigation continues,” CNN reported.

Fort Worth Police said in a statement on October 12 the officer saw a person standing inside the home near the window. “Perceiving a threat the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” police said.

“Officers entered the residence locating the individual and a firearm and began providing emergency medical care.”

Jefferson “succumbed to her injuries” and was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting, police said.

Her family attorney S. Lee Merritt described the 28-year-old as a “beautiful peaceful woman” who was a pre-med graduate of Xavier University. Jefferson worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales, Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

“She was very close to her family,” Merritt wrote on Facebook. “She was the auntie that stayed up on Friday night playing video games with her 8 year old nephew. 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.”

Marquis Jefferson, the victim’s father, called his daughter’s killing “senseless,” in an interview with CBS News. “My daughter…had her whole life in front of her,” he said.

Jefferson’s neighbor told reporters he was only trying to be a good neighbor when he called police for a welfare check.

“I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault,” 62-year-old Smith said. “If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive.”

Marquis told CBS Dallas Fort Worth he has nothing against Smith. “If you see something going on at my house with my need to call police,” he said. “But it’s the way that the police acted.”

Fort Worth Police Department later released edited video footage to “provide transparent and relevant information to the public as we are allowed within the confines of the Public Information Act and forthcoming investigation.” CNN reported that its request for the unedited body camera footage has not been fulfilled.

Police also released an image of a room nearly completely blacked out--except for a gun. The image was criticized, with Merritt saying he was concerned police was “villianizing” Jefferson or “turning her into a suspect, a silhouette, or threat.”

Dean, who has been with the department since April 2018, was initially placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a police investigation. On October 14, Fort Worth Police Interim Chief Ed Kraus said that Dean had submitted his resignation before the department was able to fire him. On the evening of October 14, Dean was charged with murder.

Jefferson’s fatal shooting has been compared to the murder of 27-year-old Botham Jean in his Dallas apartment in 2018. Jean was fatally shot by his white neighbor, former Dallas Police officer Amber Guyger.

On October 1, Guyger was found guilty of murder in Jean’s death. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison a day later. She will be eligible for parole in five years.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.