Good News! Cop Charged For Killing Atatiana Jefferson! Better News Would Be Not Killing Her At All
Atatiana Jefferson was shot dead in her own home Saturday in front of her eight-year-old nephew. Fort Worth, Texas, police officer Aaron Dean killed the 28-year-old black woman, senselessly and callously. Dean was responding to a wellness check from one of Jefferson's neighbors, who was concerned that the doors to her house were open late at night. I don't know why he called the police. "Protect and serve" does technically apply to black people, but it's not always worked out in practice.
Shockingly, Dean was charged with murder Monday. He'd resigned earlier that day, and interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said he would've fired Dean anyway for several policy violations. It's encouraging that it's against policy to murder black women in their homes. It's in the manual and everything.
Dean and another officer responding to the nonemergency call entered through Jefferson's backyard. When Dean saw Jefferson through her bedroom window, he shined a flashlight at her like a common pervert and shouted, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" He didn't identify himself as a police officer and didn't wait more than a few seconds before shooting her. This was not an effective wellness check.
The police department released body camera footage of the shooting, which exists several places online but I'm not sharing it here. It's horrifying and so indefensible the police didn't even try.
KRAUS: Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately. I get it. We're trying to train our officers better.
Oh, well, at least you're trying to train your officers not to summarily execute black people. I was worried for a moment. This was the police's initial description of the shooting: "Perceiving a threat the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence." What was the threat? The cops are the ones creeping up in someone's backyard. A prowler could've been inside the house, but Dean had no idea who he was shooting.
Okay, they did try to defend Dean for a minute, by burying Jefferson's reputation before her family could even bury her body. When the police released the body cam footage, they also included "blurry photos of a handgun found inside the home."
KRAUS: That is something we've done in the past — to include the photograph of the firearm to show what the perceived threat may have been. And in hindsight, it was a bad thing to do.
Well, duh. As Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said, the gun is "irrelevant." It's Texas. Everyone has a gun. Ted Cruz cooks bacon with a gun. They're like waffle irons over there.
my florist has a gun youtu.be
Alabama police shot E.J. Bradford in the back, and it wasn't a crime. Ohio cops shot Tamir Rice -- a child with a toy gun -- within seconds, and it wasn't a crime. I'm sure it lessens the grief somewhat for Jefferson's family that everyone agrees her death was a crime, but she's still dead. We need the police to stop killing us.
Radley Balko, in an op-ed for the Washington Post, argues that Jefferson is a victim of "law-and-order rhetoric" and the "war on cops" narrative. Police believe (falsely) that their lives are at a greater risk now than ever. Black Lives Matter apparently convinced criminals to gun down every cop they see. This is spurious fantasy and it costs innocent people their lives. Conservatives complain that no one "respects" the police and their service anymore. This is also untrue. Protests are more visible, I grant you, but the police are the enforcement arm of the government. Citizens freely criticizing their government is evidence of a healthy society. If you want a job with near unanimous approval, consider driving an ice cream truck.
Dean was released from jail yesterday after posting $200,000 bond. Like fellow Texan Amber Guyger, Dean never should've been a police officer in the first place. He's not cooperating in the investigation, but the president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association claims he's "very shaken up" by the shooting. I'm sure he is.
After Guyger's conviction, contrarians flooded my Twitter feed with baseless speculation that if she were a white male cop who'd shot a black woman, she'd have walked. Now they have their test case. I'm hardly thrilled. I don't know what Dean's final fate will be. Right now, it's hard to care, because what I do know is that Jefferson won't play video games with her nephew any more.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.