FORT WORTH, Texas - Fort Worth police say their officer did not announce himself as police before shooting through a window, killing Atatiana Jefferson in her home while she was watching her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday morning.
This fatal officer-involved shooting happened just before 2:30 a.m., when police got a call about a home’s front door being open in the 1200 block of E. Allen Ave.
Police have release body camera video of what happened after the officer arrived at the home, including the moments before he fatally shot Jefferson.
People in the community are wondering how a non-emergency call resulted in an officer shooting into a home from the back window, and killing Jefferson, who was inside her own home.
A neighbor saw the front door open and said he called the non-emergency number because he was concerned.
“When I made that non-emergency call, I didn’t say it was a burglary. I didn’t say it was people fighting. I didn’t say anything to make them have a gun. All they needed to do is ring the doorbell,” neighbor James Smith said.
Smith said he knows one of the people living in the house has a medical condition, and thought something was wrong.
In the body cam video released by Fort Worth PD, an officer is seen walking around the perimeter of the house with a flashlight and gun drawn.
Investigators say when he got to the back window, he saw someone standing inside the home.
After “perceiving a threat,” the officer can be heard saying, “Put your hands up. Show me your hands,” before immediately shooting through the window at the person inside. The officer did not announce that he was a police officer before shooting.
A single shot was fired, killing Jefferson.
When officers then went into the home, police say they found a handgun, but gave no context as to where it was when the shooting happened.
“You don’t respond to a wellness check with brute force. Yes, it was an overreaction by the Fort Worth Police Department,” the family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, said. “[The victim’s nephew] said he and his auntie, who he calls ‘Tay,’ were playing video games late into the night They heard someone creeping outside. She went to the window to investigate. An officer was on the other side, who shouted commands, and before she could respond, he shot her to death.”
Fort Worth police stand by their statement, that the officer saw a threat.
"I watched them go to the front door, but they didn't knock on the door, I saw them go to the side of the house, around the car to the back of the house, and in less than two minutes, I heard the gunshot," Smith recalled.
Fort Worth Pastor and activist Kyev Tatum said something needs to change in this community, and he believes the officer should face charges.
“We went from a welfare check, to a woman being killed by the cops,” Tatum said.
Smith said he now regrets calling the police.
“Had I not called the Fort Worth Police Department, my neighbor would still be alive,” he said.
The Fort Worth Police Officers Association released a statement calling for a "thorough and transparent investigation" into Jefferson's death.
"The Fort Worth Police Officers Association is deeply saddened by the officer involved shooting that occurred on Allen Ave.
“Any loss of life is tragic, but the reported circumstances surrounding this incident are heartbreaking. We join with the citizens of Fort Worth in mourning the death of one of our young community members. 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 exactly transpired.
“Police officers take an oath to protect and serve all citizens in our great city and it is every officers’ worst fear to use deadly force in the line of duty. We are thankful for our community leaders who seek to unite during times of grief instead of divide and we hope that collaboration and peace will help guide us forward.
The members of the FWPOA love the citizens that we serve, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Atatiana Jefferson; our hearts are heavy.”
The Fort Worth Police Department held a press conference Sunday evening, and said the officer involved will be interviewed on Monday, and the police chief is expected to hold a press conference sometime on Monday.
A vigil/protest was held for Jefferson Sunday evening, near the home where the shooting occurred.