Early on Saturday morning a neighbor of Atatiana Jefferson called a non-emergency police line for a wellness check as the lights were on and the door was opened at an unusual hour. What followed is something that neither this neighbor, nor anyone else, could have anticipated.
Former officer Aaron Dean responded to the call. Upon arrival he made no attempt to knock at the front door, but rather made his way around the back into the fenced in backyard. He saw Atatiana through the window and moments after ordering her to put her hands up had shot her. When Dean should have been following his protocol as an officer to even simply announce himself, he instead took on the role of intruder—prowling about her house with a gun in hand.
According to The Guardian, 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson was a graduate from Xavier University in New Orleans and had started a career in pharmaceutical equipment sales. She had recently moved to Fort Worth to care for her mother but on this particular night she was playing video games with her nephew when her neighbor made the call and former officer Dean arrived. Her eight-year-old nephew, Zion, was in the room and presumably saw his aunt killed before his eyes. Following her death, Jefferson’s family held a vigil and demanded the firing and arrest of Dean.
According to the Wall Street Journal, this event comes just two weeks after former officer Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of neighbor Botham Jean. Guyger had walked into the wrong apartment, mistook Jean for an intruder and shot him immediately. This incident occurred near Dallas, Texas which is about 40 miles from Fort Worth. The Guardian reports that the police of Fort Worth are responsible for fatally shooting 6 people since the start of June.
Another concerning note is related to the demographics of these officers. Al Jazeera reports, “according to a demographics report released by the Fort Worth Police Department, nearly two-thirds of its 1,100 officers were white, as of June 30. Just over 20 percent were Hispanic or Latino and about 10 percent were black.” These statistics show the need for change in more representation of minorities in the police force.
Al Jazeera quotes the Washington Post’s Fatal Force Database and it follows that, “at least 689 people have been killed by police in the U.S. so far in 2019. At least 992 people were killed by the police in 2018 and more than 980 people were killed by police the previous year.” These outrageous numbers truly implore the public, and especially the police force, to consider serious reform. Chief of Police in Fort Worth articulated perfectly the change that needed to happen. According to The Guardian, he reported that he is trying to train his officers to “act with a servant’s heart instead of a warrior’s heart.”
While in the pursuit of peace it is everyone’s call to serve their neighbor, this is especially so in the case of the police force. Their job and protocol is to do everything they can to protect the life and liberty of their civilians, not fight with a barbaric, warrior’s heart. This act committed by former officer Dean against Atatiana Jefferson truly reflected an atrocious, war-like nature. Therefore, the call to reform in the police force is urged by civilians certainly in Fort Worth and all over the world as these fatal shootings rise in number. Let us not think about these atrocities simply in terms of outrageous numbers, but each as individuals whose lives have an infinite value and a bright future, just like Atatiana Jefferson.