By Donald Lee
On the heels of the recent conviction and sentencing of a white female police officer who killed a black male in his own home in Dallas, Fort Worth has found itself in a similar situation — having to deal with the killing of a black female in her own home at the hands of a white male police officer.
The black community is infuriated and anxiously watches to see how this case will be handled by a justice system it is already leery of. Fort Worth’s mayor, Betsy Price, has offered an apology to the family of Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old woman who was fatally shot Saturday when a police officer responding to a wellness check request opened fire into the window of her home.
And Ed Kraus, Fort Worth’s interim police chief, said Aaron Dean, the officer accused in the shooting, resigned before he could fire him.
“What bothers me about us as a community is, for two or three weeks we’ll be upset, we’ll be angry, and then we’ll go on with life,” said Rodney McIntosh, pastor of Christ the Risen King Church, as he addressed the media along with other black clergy members. “But we’re finding out that if we stop for two or three weeks, two or three weeks later someone else might be killed. So we’ve got to stand up as a community and let them know that we’re sick and tired of our young ladies being killed, we’re sick and tired of our sons being killed … ”
Price has called this most recent incident “unjustifiable.”
“Atatiana was a beautiful, smart, amazing young woman, by all accounts, who was unjustly taken from her family,” the mayor said. “The entire city is in pain. As a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt, I can’t imagine anything worse, and I am so sorry.
“On behalf of the entire city of Fort Worth, I’m sorry,” the mayor added while speaking at a press conference. “To Atatiana’s family, it’s unacceptable. There is nothing that could justify what happened on Saturday morning. Nothing.”
Price also addressed James Smith, Jefferson’s neighbor who called the police department’s non-emergency number to request a wellness check on Jefferson.
“I know you’re hurting today,” the mayor said. “You called police, as we ask good neighbors to do. You were being that wonderful neighbor, the one that we would all want next door to us, the type of person who does what’s right in Fort Worth.
“Atatiana’s death has left you totally shaken and your sense of security and trust in law enforcement jeopardized,” said Price, who also called for the community’s prayers and support of Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew who witnessed her killing. “And I’m sorry.”
Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer who said she thought she was entering her own apartment when she fatally shot Botham Jean, 26, was recently convicted of murdering him and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
While the distrust many in black communities in Fort Worth and Dallas, specifically, and nationwide, in general, have for law enforcement and the justice system has merit, Mayor Price’s expressed sympathy for Jefferson’s family and the police department’s quick move to fire Dean should provide some form of hope that accountability in this case will be upheld.