Atatiana Jefferson was a 28-year-old Texas woman who was shot and killed by a Fort Worth police offer about 2 a.m. on October 12, 2019, while she was inside her home. She was shot through her bedroom window, according to body cam footage and the medical examiner’s report.
The Fort Worth Police Department said they were called to Jefferson’s home for a welfare check after a neighbor reported her front door to the house was open. The police confirmed that the call was made to the police department’s non-emergency number. The audio of the call was released to Heavy and you can listen to the call under Fact #2 below.
The officer who shot her, Aaron Dean, was arrested and charged with murder on Monday, October 14, after he resigned from the police department. He was at his attorney’s office when he was arrested. He has since posted bond.
The shooting happened just weeks after a Dallas police officer, Amber Guyger, was found guilty of murder after accidentally shooting Botham Jean when she mistook his apartment for her own. Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Days after her sentencing, a witness in her trial, Joshua Brown, was shot to death in what police said was a drug deal gone bad. The name of the Fort Worth officer who shot Jefferson has not been released.
Here is what you need to know about Atatiana Jefferson and the shooting:
1. The Police Officer Was in Atatiana Jefferson’s Backyard & Shot Her Through Her Bedroom Window
The officer responded to a call that a door was open at the home in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas. A map with the approximate location of the shooting is below.
Dean started out by standing outside the open front door, where the screen was shut, and then walked to the side of the house without announcing his presence. The lights in the house were on inside when the officer arrived. The video does not show the officer announcing himself at the doorway or knocking.
The officer opened a gate to the backyard, walked into the backyard, and shined a light on different parts of the exterior of the house. He saw a person watching him from inside the house and yelled from the backyard, “Put your hands up. Show me your hands!” The officer quickly shot through the window without waiting for any response. Fort Worth police confirmed that he never announced his presence.
Officials said the officer “perceived a threat,” WFAA noted. According to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office, Jefferson was in her bedroom when she was shot.
However, Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said in a press conference that Aaron Dean did not cooperate with the police investigation and resigned before talking to him.
“I can’t tell you what he felt, he did not give a statement to our investigators,” Kraus said.
In a press release issued on Sunday night, the Fort Worth Police said said that the body cam footage showed the officer walking to the back of the house and “the officer observed a person through a rear window in the house and fired a shot at the person. The officer did not announce that he was a police officer prior to shooting. What the person observed and why he did not announce ‘police’ will be addressed as the investigation continues. An eight-year-old male, Ms. Jefferson’s nephew, was inside the room during this time.”
2. The Officer Was Responding to a Call for a Welfare Check Made to a Non-Emergency Number
The officer was responding to a call about an “open structure” (meaning an open door) that was made at 2:25 a.m. Both of the neighbor’s vehicles were in the driveway. Units were dispatched at 2:25 a.m., according to the police timeline shared in the raw video footage. The call was made because the neighbors are usually home at that time but the door is never open. Units arrived at the scene at 2:28 and 2:29.
James Smith, the neighbor who made the call, told WFAA that he called a non-emergency police number to ask for a welfare check. Police confirmed this in a press conference on Sunday. He was concerned because the lights were on and the front door was open.
You can listen to the call that Smith made below.
Smith said the officer’s response didn’t make sense. He told WFAA that there was no domestic violence and no arguing. He said: “nothing that they should have been concerned about as far as them coming with guns drawn to my neighbor’s house.”
Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said during a press conference that the call taker relayed the call information to dispatch, who then relayed the details to the police officer. He said on October 15 that he wasn’t sure who determined the call was an open structure call and not a welfare check.
3. Edited Bodycam Footage Shows the Shooting
Police released the bodycame footage of the shooting. The edited, raw footage is embedded below, as released by the police.
WARNING: This footage may be disturbing for some to see.
The body cam footage is edited and includes blurred clips of the firearm in the home and cuts off immediately after the shooting. Media have requested unedited body cam footage that includes what happened after the shooting.
At one point just before the shooting, a figure that appears to be Jefferson can be seen looking out her window. The officer said he observed a figure through the window when he shot and he did not announce his presence first, the Fort Worth Police said in a press conference.
After the shooting, officers provided emergency medical care, but Jefferson died on the scene.
During Monday’s press conference, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said that displaying the gun in the bodycam footage was unnecessary.
“The images released showing the gun inside Ms. Jefferson’s home… the gun was irrelevant,” Price said. “She was in her own home caring for her 8-year-old nephew.”
Police Chief Ed Kraus agreed that in hindsight, showing the weapon in the bodycam footage video was the wrong thing to do. He said they will review why they added that to the footage and when it is and is not appropriate.
“The gun was found just inside the room, but it makes sense she would have one,” Kraus said.
An independent panel is going to review the entire police department.
4. Atatiana Jefferson Was Playing Video Games With Her Nephew, Who Was at Her Home During the Shooting
Attorney Lee Merritt, who represented Botham Jean’s family and who investigated the death of Joshua Brown, a witness in Amber Guyger’s trial, shared the officer’s bodycam footage on Twitter. He said on Twitter that Atatiana Jefferson, known by friends as “Tay,” was playing video games with her eight-year-old nephew in her home when she was shot. She thought she heard a noise in her backyard and was shot when she went to investigate, he said.
The Fort Worth police released the following press release about the shooting:
In their statement, the Fort Worth Police said, in part: “The individual, a black female, who resides at the residence succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased on the scene. The officer, a white male who has been with the department since April of 2018, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome [of] the critical police incident investigation.”
During a press conference on Sunday, the Fort Worth Police acknowledged that her nephew was in the home during the shooting.
You can watch the press conference from Sunday below:
Shaun King shared a heartbreaking post about Jefferson’s nephew, Zion, and how much he loved playing Halo with his Auntie Tay.
In a family press conference on Monday, October 14, Lee Merritt said that Zion remembers a lot of what happened and was with Jefferson when she was shot. “He never left the room,” Merritt said, adding that he wanted to be the one to look out the window but Tay didn’t let him. When she went to look out the window, she was shot and killed.
“He saw her when he fell,” Merritt said. He added that Zion learned coping mechanisms in school that he’s now encouraging his mother to use in her grief.
5. She Studied Biology & Chemistry in College & Was Helping Her Mother Who Had Recently Gotten Sick
According to her Facebook page (which was last updated publicly in 2018), Atatiana Jefferson worked at Xavier University of Louisiana, where she also studied biology and majored in chemistry with a minor in pre-med. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales, her GoFundMe shares.
She was a dedicated student. This 2015 video shared by Jefferson on YouTube shows her doing an AP lab exercise.
In 2014, Tay Jefferson shared a petition on her page and wrote: “When you do the crime you do the time. Crimes cannot go unpunished no matter what they are. It makes a mockery of the U.S justice system if people feel comfortable enough to commit crimes. Whether this was his normal behavior or not, he should still be dealt with like any other person in that situation. If I speed I will get a ticket. I may not normally speed but that doesn’t change the fact that I have a ticket. Unless this man has a mental illness or a massive brain tumor that impaired his judgement he needs to be properly dealt with.”
This 2012 video from her YouTube page shows her working on a Spanish project for class.
Her Facebook cover photo was a photo of pretzels arranged to spell out the word “love.”
Lee Merritt said that Jefferson was living with her mother to help out because her mother has a medical condition. Her GoFundMe elaborates that her mom had recently gotten very sick and Jefferson was taking care of the house. She was very close to her family.
Pastors and activists in the community are seeking answers, wanting to know why she was shot and killed.
A GoFundMe has been started for Jefferson’s family. When this story was updated, more than $10,000 had been raised. Just 30 minutes later, that number jumped to more than $14,000.
The donations now are greater than $160,000. During a press conference on October 14, the family dispelled rumors that they weren’t involved in the GoFundMe, saying that it had their approval.