Is it something in the water in Texas? Or something in hiring and training practices of Texas police departments?
One has to ask after the latest incident involving a black woman shot and killed in their own home by a police officer for doing nothing more than “living while black.”
The new murder took place at the home of 28-year-old Atatiana Koquice Jefferson in Fort Worth, Texas, not far from the scene of the most famous recent shooting of a black person on their own home— the killing of Botham Jean by Officer Amber Guyger in nearby Dallas.
A neighbor of Ms. Jefferson had called a non-emergency police number to have the police come to check to make sure that his neighbor was OK after seeing the doors in her home open and the lights on, not knowing that he was setting in motion a situation that would result in an unwarranted death.
The Fort Worth Police Department said in a statement that its officers arrived on the scene at 2:25 AM and proceeded to search the perimeter of Ms. Jefferson’s home on East Allen Avenue. Five minutes later, Jefferson was dead in her bedroom.
“The individual, a black female, who resides at the residence succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased on the scene,” the Fort Worth Police Department’s statement related. “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.”
The explanation on how the shooting occurred raised questions about an apparently trigger-happy police officer who couldn’t bother to wait to confirm the identity of the person he confronted or even give them the time to raise their hands as he commanded before firing the fatal shot.
While scouting the outside of the home, one officer saw someone in the house through a window and fired the single shot that was sufficient to kill Jefferson. The Fort Worth Police Department statement on the killing says that immediately after the shot was fired, officers entered the premises and found Jefferson’s body, as well as a firearm, not an unusual item to find in someone’s home in the open carry state. It is uncertain if the weapon was actually found anywhere near Jefferson’s body.
According to an account of the incident on BuzzFeed News:
“Fort Worth PD released body camera footage from the incident taken from the angle of the officer who fired the shot. In it, the officer can be seen taking notice of an open door at the residence — which had its lights on — and then walking around the home’s perimeter with a colleague. He then opens a gate, and walks to a darker part of the yard while holding a flashlight.”
“Within seconds of walking though the gate, the officer peers through a window, where he presumably sees a person. He quickly raises his flashlight in one hand, gun in another. “Put your hands up, show me your hands,” he shouts before firing a shot — all in less than four seconds.”
Put yourself in Jefferson’s position. In her own home, minding her own business, she suddenly sees a light flashing into her window from a dark yard and a stranger barks at her to raise her hands over her head. Unlikely to be able to see who is shouting at her, she has as long as it took you to read this sentence to comply with the shouted orders before finding herself on the floor bleeding to death.
James Smith, the neighbor who made the initial early morning call to the police, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he was “shaken” by the incident and couldn’t help but at least partially blame himself for his neighbor’s killing.
“If I had never dialed the police department, she’d still be alive,” Smith said.
“It makes you not want to call the police department,” he added. “If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with?”
He said: “If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with? Do you just ignore crime or ignore something that’s not right?" pic.twitter.com/w7nvgtOIwy
— Jack Howland (@JHowl04) October 12, 2019
Unfortunately, if you’re black and live in Texas, the answer is likely nobody, not even in your own home, unless you can beat that four-second deadline.
With the precedent of Amber Guyger’s conviction for the murder of Botham Jean, it will be interesting to see what the fate of the Fort Worth police officer will be after this latest fatal violation of a victim’s sense of safety in their own home. The odds of a conviction for the police officer involved in this incident can likely be calculated in less than the four seconds that Ms. Jefferson had to respond to her killer’s command.
You can watch the police bodycam footage from the shooting in the video below.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.