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Black leaders reject calls for ‘healing’ after Atatiana Jefferson killing until city changes policing

Black leaders reject calls for ‘healing’ after Atatiana Jefferson killing until city changes policing

Members of the Faith and Community Leaders United Group in Fort Worth, Texas. | Screenshot: WFAA

Black faith leaders in Fort Worth, Texas, where a 28-year-old black woman was shot dead in her home by a white police officer through her window say there can be “no healing” from the tragedy until the city addresses concerns about the way black and brown communities are policed.

"We're at a place now where our city leaders are calling for healing," pastor William Timothy Glynn, president of Faith and Community Leaders United, said at a press conference Wednesday, according to WFAA. "There can be no healing until the problem is addressed, and the source of the problem is much deeper than even the shooting that occurred."

Glynn and a group of black faith and community leaders demanded change at the Fort Worth Police Department in the wake of the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson. 

Jefferson was killed early Saturday morning after now resigned officer, Aaron Dean, fired through her backyard window on what was initially reported as a welfare check.

On Thursday, CNN reported that Dean was sent on a call that police normally treat as a potential burglary and that could have contributed to the way in which the officer approached the home.

Atatiana Jefferson is seen here with her nephew. | Facebook

Jefferson's neighbor had called a non-emergency police line to report that he had seen her front door open late at night. 

"Well, the front doors have been open since 10 o'clock. I haven't seen anybody moving around. It's not normal for them to have both of the doors open this time of night," Jefferson's neighbor said on audio of the phone call released by authorities.

"OK, do you know if anyone is inside?" the neighbor was asked.

"I'm not sure. Both of the cars are there," he replied.

Lee Merritt, Jefferson's family attorney, said Jefferson had left her door open to allow a cool breeze inside as she played video games with her 8-year-old nephew.

Officers apparently misread the situation and failed to announce themselves or knock on Jefferson’s door before entering her backyard and shooting her through a window.

Both Merritt and community leaders agree that Jefferson’s death is an example of aggressive policing in black communities.

"From every indication — any way you twist it, turn it or look at it — there are serious problems with the Fort Worth Police Department and the way they police the black and brown community," Glynn said. 

Dean, 34, resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department before he could be fired and was charged with murder two days after the shooting.

Jeff Halstead, a retired Fort Worth chief of police and police consultant, said despite suggestions that the call might have been interpreted as a potential burglary, there was nothing in the body camera footage released that suggests a crime was happening at  the home.

"They were standing literally at the front door, they could see whether the door was kicked on or not. The lights were on, there was evidence that people were living there, there were toys," Halstead told CNN.

"Why they advanced to an extremely dark backyard area without at least ringing the doorbell or checking the entrance? That's extremely concerning,” he continued.

He noted that Dean's limited experience as a police officer could have factored into how he acted. He was hired in August 2017 and commissioned as a licensed officer in April 2018.

"Some officers, younger officers, think every call is an extreme risk or high profile call," Halstead said. "With seniority, maturity, experience, you can customize your mindset in approaching a lot of different calls."

The pastor and community group is expected to send a letter to United States Attorney General William P. Barr to ask for equal protection under the law.  They will also gather at 5 p.m. Saturday across the street from the John F. Kennedy Tribute at General Worth Square to call for the nation to look at Fort Worth. 

Jefferson's wake and funeral will be held at The Potter’s House of Dallas on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver remarks and Bishop T.D. Jakes will deliver the eulogy.

"While her heartbreaking and untimely death has captured the nation’s attention, the funeral will pay tribute to her life as a loving daughter, sister and aunt," a The Potter's House said in a statement to CP on Thursday.

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