The eight-year-old nephew of Atatiana “Tay” Jefferson, the Black woman fatally shot in her own home by a Texas police officer Saturday, witnessed the killing, an attorney for Jefferson’s family told HuffPost.
Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Jefferson’s family, said the boy will begin counselling Monday in the wake of his beloved aunt’s death.
A Fort Worth, Texas, police officer shot Jefferson through a bedroom window from outside her home around 2:30 am Saturday while conducting a wellness check of the residence. A neighbour had called the police department’s non-emergency line to express concern that a door to the house was open.
Video from the body camera worn by the officer who fired the shot shows him entering the backyard of the house, turning left, suddenly grabbing for his gun and pointing it at the window.
“Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” he can be heard shouting before immediately firing one round through the screen window.
The officers then entered the house and provided emergency medical care to Jefferson, but she died at the scene, officials said.
The Fort Worth Police Department hasn’t released the name of the officer, but has described him as a “white male who has been with the department since April of 2018.”
He has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation. He is scheduled to be interviewed by the department’s major case unit on Monday.
Police Chief Edwin Kraus said during a press conference Sunday that the officer did not identify himself as a police officer before opening fire. A statement released by the police department Sunday confirmed Jefferson’s nephew was in the room at the time of the shooting.
“This tragic loss of life has major ramifications for all involved, especially the family of Ms. Atatiana Jefferson,” according to the statement. “We have communicated with the family and shared our serious and heartfelt concern for this unspeakable loss.”
The police department hasn’t responded to HuffPost’s request for comment about whether any of the officers who responded to the wellness check request knocked on Jefferson’s front door or announced their presence before she was shot.
Jefferson had been living in the house to help take care of her mother, who has a medical condition, Merritt said. She was a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana and worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales.
She was proud of being the “cool auntie,” Merritt told The New York Times, and was up late playing video games with her nephew the night she was killed. The two had been playing Halo when they heard a noise outside, he said. She went to the bedroom window to investigate and was shot by the police officer.
Police released still frames from body camera footage that appeared to show a firearm they found inside Jefferson’s home. They have not said whether she was wielding a weapon when she was shot.
“It wouldn’t matter because that’s her home,” Merritt told the Times, adding that Jefferson was a legal gun owner.
The shooting sparked anger and disgust among community members. A candlelight vigil for Jefferson on Sunday night became a protest against police brutality with many calling for the officer to be fired and indicted.
“It’s another one of those situations where the people who are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” Amber Carr, Jefferson’s older sister, told NBC Dallas/Fort Worth. “You know, you want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back.”
Jefferson’s killing comes less than two weeks after former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who is white, was convicted of murdering her unarmed neighbor in his own apartment.
Botham Jean, who is Black, had been watching TV when Guyger stormed in, saying she believed an intruder was in her own apartment, which was a floor below. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison.