‘I’m deeply sorry:’ Fort Worth police chief apologizes for Atatiana Jefferson death

FORT WORTH, Texas — Fort Worth Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus apologized Tuesday for the killing of Atatiana Jefferson in her home by a Fort Worth officer.

“I’m deeply sorry for what occurred,” Kraus said at a news conference.

“Human life is a precious thing. It should not have been taken from Ms. Jefferson,” he said.

The officer, Aaron Dean, resigned after Saturday morning’s shooting.

Kraus provided new information about Dean’s arrest Monday: He was arrested by police officers at his attorney’s office.

Atatiana Koquice Jefferson‘s brother said that he remains speechless, two days after she was fatally shot by a police officer in her Fort Worth home.

“Slowly but surely, we are allowing ourselves to feel. It’s been a lot,” Adarius Carr, Jefferson’s brother, told CNN’s Don Lemon Monday, hours after the officer who shot her was arrested. “Today, itself, has been… I’m speechless about it, I can’t put it into words.”

Fort Worth police responded to a call to check on Jefferson’s home in the early hours of Saturday morning. Aaron Dean, a white police officer, shot Jefferson through her window. Police say Dean did not identify himself as an officer before shooting. Dean has been arrested on murder charges.

Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when police arrived, a family attorney said.

The child was the one to tell his mother — Jefferson’s sister — what happened to his aunt, the family said.

“Zion is a very smart child. He’s very wise beyond his little 8-year-old years,” Carr told Lemon.

“We’ve noticed things about him that changed, but he’s a strong one,” he added. “We’ll get him the treatment he needs to make sure he’s good.”

Dean was arrested around 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) on Monday and charged with murder. He posted bail about three hours later, after briefly being held in the Tarrant County Jail with bond set at $200,000.

Carr said the arrest is only the start of the action the family wants to see taken.

A call for an independent investigation

An important next step the family wants to see is an independent investigation, according to Lee Merritt, an attorney for Jefferson’s family.

“The city of Fort Worth is unique in allowing its own department to investigate its own officers,” Merritt told CNN Monday. He said an independent investigation is “the appropriate thing to happen, whether or not Fort Worth will do that will depend on how invested this community remains in calling for justice.”

He said police reached out to his clients, but they’d rather talk with independent investigators about the shooting.

The Fort Worth Police Department has presented a preliminary case to the FBI to review Dean’s actions for possible civil rights violations, according to interim police Chief Ed Kraus.

Saturday’s shooting is the ninth by Fort Worth police in 2019, police said. Seven of those were fatal.

“Any loss of life is tragic, but the reported circumstances surrounding this incident are heartbreaking,” the Fort Worth Police Officer’s Association said in a statement. “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 transpired.”

How the night unfolded

At 2:23 a.m. Saturday, Jefferson’s neighbor, James Smith, called the non-emergency police number for a wellness check for Jefferson when he saw that her doors had been open for a while in the early hours of the morning, he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He knew she was with her young nephew and he was worried about them, he said.

Officers arrived and parked near the residence at 2:28 a.m., police spokesman Lt. Brandon O’Neil said Sunday at a news conference. Merritt said Jefferson and her nephew were playing video games inside the house when officers arrived.

Police released heavily edited body camera footage of the home, where lights were on but no one inside was visible as officers approached.

As they walked in the dark outside the house, one officer approached a window quickly with a flashlight and his weapon drawn. The footage shows the officer yelling, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” before firing through the window.

Police said that the officer drew his weapon and fired one shot after “perceiving a threat.”

The officers entered and rendered medical aid to Jefferson, but she died at the scene, police said in a statement.

Firearm found

Police said officers found a firearm when they entered the room.

At a Sunday news conference, a reporter asked O’Neil, the police spokesman, if Jefferson was holding that handgun when the officer shot. He declined to answer.

“There was nothing nefarious or illegal about owning a firearm, and they presented in no way that that firearm was contributory towards the use of deadly force here,” Merritt told CNN affiliate KTVT on Saturday.

A caretaker

Jefferson had recently moved into her ailing mother’s home to take care of her. Her mother was in a hospital the night Jefferson was shot, Merritt said.

“Her mom had recently gotten very sick, so she was home taking care of the house and loving her life. There was no reason for her to be murdered,” Merritt said on a GoFundMe page benefiting her family.

Merritt said Jefferson graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2014 with a degree in biology and worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales.

“It’s another one of those situations where the people that are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” one of Jefferson’s sisters, Amber Carr, told KTVT. “You know, you want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back.”

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