Ft Worth cop kills Atatiana Jefferson split second after ordering hands up

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Oct 14, 2019 Ft Worth cop kills Atatiana Jefferson split second after ordering hands up

By now, millions of people know of the horrifically unjustified Fort Worth, Texas, police killing of Atatiana K. Jefferson inside her own home on October 12, 2019. What, then, can I add to the conversation that has not already been said?

On the one hand, anyone who knows me knows that it goes without saying that I am horrified by this inexcusable police homicide. On the other hand, this tragedy is so extreme that for me to say nothing on this blog does not feel right. I also want to vent, but will not do so here, not because of the criminal law’s presumption of innocence nor to enable the full evidence to come out, but because I am in shock. I am in shock not because police abuse does not occur — and occurs all too often and often too extremely —  but because if police abuse is going to get as hair trigger as this, my prior warnings of the need to reverse our police state have been too mild. In point of fact, I want to kick a wall right now over my anger about this killing, but that will accomplish nothing.

It takes a pretty extreme and clear situation for me to not say that perhaps there is more to the picture than meets the eye. What meets the eye is horrific, in brief:

  • Neighbor James Smith wants to help Atatiana Jefferson’s welfare by calling the police non-emergency phone number for a check on her house, because it is rare for her doors to be left open.
  • Police show up, and one of them Aaron Dean, who resigned today) order “put your hands up… show me your hands,” and in a split second fires the fatal shot into the house. See video at minute 1:30. (UPDATE: Aaron Dean is being prosecuted for murder, a sooner development than I had expected.)
  • The police never identify themselves. Even if Ms. Jefferson had a weapon on or near her (and no suggestion has yet been made by the police that she was holding a weapon) does not justify a police shooting into one’s own home when the person inside has no way to know that police are present.

The cop, Aaron Dean, who killed Ms. Jefferson is white. Ms. Jefferson is black. I have no way to know the extent to which race played any role in the police actions leading to her killing.

The New York Times reports: “Lt. Brandon O’Neil, a department spokesman, said at a news conference that the department was continuing to investigate the shooting, and would look at why the officer did not identify himself as a police officer. The officer is scheduled to be interviewed by the department’s major case unit on Monday.”

Police officer Manny Ramirez is president of the Ft. Worth police association, and said the fatal shooting of Ms. Jefferson was a “tragic mistake”, and he said officers mourn her loss, and that Ms. Jefferson had “every right to have a firearm in that house.”

Here is the Ft. Worth police October 12, 2019, press release on Ms. Jefferson’s killing. Here is a public police presentation on the tragedy.

The shooting police officer had only been with the department for eighteen months.

We cannot be having hair-trigger violence by police. We need police who are the best available to watch out for everyone’s rights. We cannot do that while our criminal justice system remains overcriminalized and overgrown. We need to shrink the criminal justice system, starting by legalizing marijuana, prostitution and gambling; heavily decriminalizing all remaining drugs; and eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing. We must have no more such tragedies repeat themselves.

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