A Fort Worth, Texas, police officer shot and killed a 28-year-old woman inside her home early Saturday morning after police were called to the residence for a welfare check.
A neighbor called the police department's non-emergency number after he noticed the doors were open with the lights on. Police responded to the home in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue about 2:20 a.m.
The Tarrant County medical examiner identified the woman as Atatiana Koquice Jefferson. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
In body camera video released by police, two officers search the home from the outside with flashlights before one shouts, "Put your hands up, show me your hands." One shot is then fired through a window.
"You didn't hear the officer shout, 'Gun, gun, gun,'" the family's attorney Lee Merritt said. "He didn't have time to perceive a threat. That's murder."
Relatives said she was watching a nephew at the house.
Venitta Body, an aunt, said Jefferson was a college graduate with a good job.
"She would never have been a threat to anyone. This is why this is so hard to conceive," Body said.
Officers responded to the call from witness James Smith, who said he used a non-emergency number and not 911 for the call because it was only a welfare check and not an emergency.
"There was no reason for her to be dead, because there was nothing violent going on," Smith said. "There was no distress at this particular property. They had no reason to come here with guns drawn."
The officer's body camera video was shortly released by the Fort Worth Police Department.
In the video, the officer can be seen walking around the exterior of the home, shining a flashlight on the walls and windows of the property. He then stops, points his flashlight at a window and draws his gun after seeing a person watching him from inside, police said.
The officer appears to fire once at the window before the video cuts to black.
The officer is not heard speaking to anyone at the house before that moment at the window.
"All they had to do was announce who they were, and if she heard them, she would probably come to the door to see who they were," Smith said.
"I'm shaken. I'm mad. I'm upset. And I feel it's partly my fault," Smith said. "If I had never dialed the police department, she'd still be alive."
In a police statement, police said the responding officers saw a person near the window inside the home. The officer fired the single shot after "perceiving a threat," the statement said. The bodycam video also included images of a gun inside the residence, but it's unclear if the firearm was found near the woman.
According to a police statement, officers entered the home after the woman was shot and began providing emergency medical care.
Local activists held a press conference Saturday, asking the city to hold the officer who fired the shot accountable. Pastor B.R. Daniels Jr. said he wants the police department to stop what he called "shooting first, asking questions later."
"We want a review of policy, procedures. How do you storm a house, kill a young lady, with an 8-year-old minor in the house, who could have been killed himself," Daniels said.
Her sister Amber Carr said their family is devastated.
"You want to see justice but justice don’t bring my sister back," Carr said through tears.
A candlelight vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Sunday at 1201 E. Allen Avenue, near where the shooting occurred.
The officer — who has not been identified — is on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation, police said. He has been with the Fort Worth Police Department since April 2018.
The case will be handed over to the Tarrant County District Attorney's Law Enforcement Incident Team, police said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price released a statement on Saturday:
"Writing a statement like this is tragic and something that should never be necessary. A young woman has lost her life, leaving her family in unbelievable grief. All of Fort Worth must surround Atatiana Jefferson’s family with prayers, love and support.
Chief Kraus and his command staff are acting with immediacy and transparency to conduct a complete and thorough investigation. More details are forthcoming and the Tarrant County District Attorney Law Enforcement Incident Team office will ultimately receive this case." - Mayor Betsy Price, City of Fort Worth.
Fort Worth Police Officer Association President Manny Ramirez responded to a request for comment with a text message, which read "We are all deeply saddened by the heartbreaking situation. We are mourning the loss of one of our citizens along with the rest of our community."
The association released a statement Sunday afternoon:
The Fort Worth Officers Association is deeply saddened by the officer involved shooting that occurred on Allen Avenue.
Any loss of life is tragic, but the reported circumstances surrounding this incident are heartbreaking. We join the citizens of Fort Worth in mourning the death of one of our young community members. We are urging the Fort Worth Police Department to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, and through that investigation we hope to gain clarity and understanding of what exactly transpired.
Police officers take an oath to protect and serve all citizens in our great city and it is ever officers' worst fear to use deadly force in the line of duty. We are thankful for our community leaders who seek to unite during times of grief instead of divide and we hope that collaboration and peace will help guide us forward.
The members of the FWPOA love the citizens that we serve, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Atatiana Jefferson; our hearts are heavy.
The Officers of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association.