Atatiana Jefferson's death highlights a long history of police violence in Fort Worth, and the community says it's time for a 'reckoning'

October 19, 2019 0 By HearthstoneYarns

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  • Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was shot and killed by Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean early Saturday morning.

  • Dean has since resigned from the force and has been charged with murder.

  • Five fatal police shootings have taken place in Fort Worth since June, before Jefferson’s death.

  • S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer who is representing Jefferson’s family told The New York Times that there “needs to be a reckoning” to change the police culture in Fort Worth.

  • Lee Muhammad, a student minister and local community leader, told Insider that community members feel unsafe.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Atatiana Jefferson’s death marks the sixth death by a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, since June. Community members have had enough.

Jefferson, 28, was shot and killed by Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean early Saturday morning after a neighbor called a non-emergency police line just after 2 a.m. asking for a wellness check because his niece noticed Jefferson’s front door was open.

Dean has since resigned from the force and has been charged with murder.

But Fort Worth police have had problems that date far before Jefferson’s death. Her death is the eighth officer-involved shooting this year, according to a log from the attorney general of Texas’s office.

Tarrant County Jail via APS. Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer who is representing Jefferson’s family, said a murder charge for Dean is a “good start” on changing the police culture in the city.

“Fort Worth has a culture that has allowed this to happen,” he told The New York Times. “There still needs to be a reckoning.”

Lee Muhammad, a student minister and community leader who works with the group Concerned Citizens Local Organizing Committee of Greater Tarrant County, which aims to make communities in the county safe, agreed the police department needs to change.

“Dissatisfaction eventually brings about a change. As the voice of the dissatisfied grows louder change will come about. Our hope is that the change will come willingly from the top,” he told Insider in an email. “Continued injustice overtime causes and imbalance in the minds of the victims and history has shown us that this leads to unnecessary clashes with a recalcitrant government.”

There have been 6 fatal police shootings in Fort Worth this year — and the city has faced several high-profile brutality cases

Prior to this year, Fort Worth police have been involved in several high-profile incidents. Concerns of police violence and use of force date back to at least 2009, according to a detailed account from Vox.

In 2009, a 24-year-old black man named Michael Patrick Jacobs died after being Tasered by police who were responding to an emergency call from Jacobs’ parents. Police offered a $2 million settlement to the Jacobs family after they sued the city over the man’s death.

YouTube/The Dallas Morning News

In July 2016, a Fort Worth officer shot a black man named David Collie as he walked away from police — the shooting left him paralyzed from the waist down. Police said Collie was a robbery suspect at the time and that he raised a weapon. Collie said he never threatened officers. Officials later dropped the charges against Collie.

In December 2016, a Fort Worth officer was filmed pushing and arresting a black woman named Jacqueline Craig, who had called police to report that her neighbor had choked her son. The police officer, William Martin, was suspended for 10 days but not fired.

Read more: Atatiana Jefferson’s neighbor thought he asked police to do a wellness check, but the police didn’t investigate it that way

In 2017, officers Tasered a black woman named Dorshay Morris after she called police for help during a domestic dispute with her boyfriend.

Muhammad told Insider that police officers should undergo cultural sensitivity training and impact bias testing.

“We believe implicit bias plays a major role in how police respond in black and brown neighborhoods,” he told Insider. “More of our tax dollars needs to be diverted to proper education and cultivating human potential and building the inner city. Finally we need to seriously look at community policing from the inside out. Empowering groups to patrol their own neighborhoods and calling the police only when absolutely necessary.”

Fort Worth is taking steps to hold the police department accountable

The Fort Worth City Council announced in September of this year that it would create a police monitor position to review “how well the police department has been following its own policies and procedures,” Fort Worth Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa told CNN.

AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg

The city has put more than $700,000 aside to launch the position and start a diversity program within the police department, CNN reported.

Muhammad told Insider that the city council’s actions are a start, but people are angry that so many people are dying at the hands of police.

“When you hear people say they don’t feel safe, this is not hyperbole. This feeling of vulnerability has lead to protest and attempts to shut down city council meetings,” he said. “On a positive note, more town hall meetings and planning sessions are occurring to organize the people to make sure this does not happen again.”

  • Read more:

  • Atatiana Jefferson’s nephew said she pointed a gun out of a window before a Fort Worth police officer shot her. Her family and the police chief say she had every right to do so.

  • A retired black police officer in Fort Worth, where Atatiana Jefferson was killed, says she’s afraid to get stopped by her department’s officers because of her race

  • The killing of Atatiana Jefferson shows how police training needs to change: in some states it takes less training to become an officer than a barber

  • Former police officer who fatally shot woman in her own home was booked for murder

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