Just weeks after Amber Guyger, an off-duty Dallas police officer, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing 26-year-old accountant Botham Jean in his own apartment, nearby Fort Worth police are facing sharp criticism for the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, an unarmed black woman who was playing video games in her own home.
The officer who shot Jefferson, Aaron Dean, reportedly resigned shortly before the Fort Worth police submitted a case to the FBI for federal investigators to review whether Dean should face civil rights violations, according to Fox 4 News. But whether or not the case goes to trial, many residents say they can no longer trust the police.
One of those speaking out is James Smith, Jefferson’s neighbor who called a non-emergency number asking for a welfare check after seeing her door ajar. Smith says he never expected the house call to turn violent, and now regrets turning to the authorities for help. “If I had not called the police to do a welfare check, my neighbor would still be alive,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Smith went on to explain that the door had been open for hours and that he didn’t see any movement when he went to the house himself, so he’d called for authorities to make sure his neighbors were OK. He claimed that he heard gunshots “less than a minute” later. In the video of Smith on Twitter, he said the incident “makes you not want to call the police department.”
I wanted to paint the last thing pre-Med graduate Atatiana Jefferson was doing before she was killed by the cops...
Her Life Mattered.#AtatianaJefferson #TayJefferson #DallasFortWorth #FWPD pic.twitter.com/xiavrFO0pX
— NIKKOLAS (@4NIKKOLAS) October 13, 2019
“If you can’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with?” he asked. “They tell you if you see something, say something ... but if it causes someone to lose their life, it makes you not want to do that. It’s sad in this society.”
“It’s another one of those situations where the people who are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” Amber Carr, Jefferson’s older sister, told DFW's NBC 5. “You know, you want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back.”
This gentleman is heavy on my mind + heart this morning. He called the police concerned about his neighbor. The police murdered her. If you believe in a Power Higher than yourself, join me in prayer + peaceful meditation for James Smith. #AtatianaJefferson pic.twitter.com/0iDjm0uhwT
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) October 13, 2019
Protesters have already hit the streets in Forth Worth in search of the same.
As residents began calls for justice, the Fort Worth police released the body camera footage of the incident showing Dean shooting Jefferson through a window as she and her 8-year-old nephew were playing video games. In the video, he is outside the house with a flashlight as he yells his commands. "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" Dean shouted just seconds before he fired. Fort Worth police say Dean never identified himself as police or knocked on the front door, but said that those details would be covered later on. "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 said.
The acts of yet another “trained” police officer has resulted in the death of a person of color. If we are not safe to call the police, if we are not safe in our homes, where can we find peace? We demand answers! We demand justice! #AtatianaJefferson pic.twitter.com/ZGBsgIdUCg
— NAACP (@NAACP) October 14, 2019
The crowd is shouting “we love you” and “we’re with you” as the family of Jefferson leaves the vigil. pic.twitter.com/BwEdMUwf86
— Jesus Jimenez 🌩 (@jesus_jimz) October 14, 2019
Dean is now expected to be questioned by the FBI. “This tragic loss of life has major ramifications for all involved, especially the family of Ms. Atatiana Jefferson,” according to a statement released by Fort Worth police. “We have communicated with the family and shared our serious and heartfelt concern for this unspeakable loss.”
In the wake of the death, users have taken to Twitter to expose a longtime pattern of racial bias noting that “Fort Worth PD was ‘selected’ in 2015 as one of six cities to be in a pilot program designed to improve race relations and bias awareness.”
Fort Worth PD was “selected” in 2015 as 1 of 6 cities to be in a pilot program designed to improve race relations and bias awareness.
Hmm, it sounds like administrators already knew several years ago that there was a problem with their department’s treatment of minorities...🤔 pic.twitter.com/NLb4LpavQD
— Megan Ashley (@MeganAshMontana) October 13, 2019
The shooting happened not far from Dallas, where Guyger, who reportedly thought she was in her own apartment, killed Jean while he was eating ice cream on his couch, unarmed. Jefferson was a pre-med Xavier University graduate, taking care of her sick mother at home. A GoFundMe has been set up for her funeral expenses by Lee Merrit Esq. who also represented Jean’s case and he held a press conference with Jefferson’s family this morning. “There was no reason for her to be murdered,” Merrit wrote on the GoFundMe. “None. We must have justice.”
Yahoo Lifestyle was unable to reach Smith or Merritt by the time of publishing.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: