Atatiana Jefferson: So What She Owns a Gun? It’s Her Right

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard the most recent high-profile case of the killing of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old woman, who was shot and killed by former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, while playing video games with her nephew in her home. Atatiana was basically minding her business when a neighbor called a non-emergency 911 number to have someone perform a wellness check when he noticed the front door of the home was open. Atatiana was fatally wounded after Dean showed up yelling commands, with a flashlight in hand and pointing a gun in her window in a dark room without so much as identifying himself. Not even minutes after Dean killed Jefferson, the police department trotted out information that Jefferson owned a gun which was found in the house.

Atatiana Jefferson having a gun in her own damned home is immaterial to the fact that the neighbor called a non-emergency number for a welfare check; the police officer did not announce himself upon arrival; the police officer shot through a side window in the dark killing her; the police officer shot this woman dead in front of her nephew – a child; The police officer’s reckless behavior might have resulted in the death of her nephew.

The police officer failed to follow basic protocol and procedure, period.

Dallas Morning News is now reporting that Tatiana was shot after pointing her gun at the window after she retrieved her gun from her purse when hearing the noise and seeing the flashlight outside, which is what her nephew communicated to investigators.

My response to the fact she had a gun is so what? She has the right to own a gun and to protect herself and her family when under the impression that her home is being broken into by a stranger.

Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said at a news conference Tuesday it “makes sense that she would have a gun if she felt that she was being threatened or there was someone in the backyard.”

To show you how heinous this crime was, Kraus and Fort Worth’s mayor Betsy Price apologized to Jefferson’s family at a news conference Monday. Dean resigned his position – to avoid being fired — and was arrested for Jefferson’s murder.

While the police department and media outlets initially kept the identity of Dean protected, they trotted out the information Jefferson had a gun to provide a reason for Dean’s unreasonable behavior. I suspect the police and city officials fell on the sword after realizing there is no justifiable reason for Atatiana Jefferson to be dead — a college graduate with aspirations of being a doctor.

An empathetic woman who like many stepped up to help care for aging relatives and like many “Aunties,” loved spending time with her nephew and allowing him to stay up all night with her to have fun. As a super “Auntie,” that is what “Aunties” are for — to have fun with your nieces and nephews and break the rules with them every once in a while, like staying up way past bedtime to play video games. Our little ones also help us to reclaim some of those carefree childhood days when having fun was at the top of the to-do list. Atatiana, who obviously had a lot on her plate with caring for others, may have simply forgotten to close the door completely behind her when entering the home because that never happens (sarcasm). Now her nephew’s last memory of his “Auntie” is watching her lifeless body fall to the ground. Who is going to help take care of him or her ailing relatives now?

Why the neighbor called the police instead of going over and pulling the door shut we’ll never know? Maybe he didn’t know Jefferson’s family (the Craigs) well or didn’t want to cause concern by coming onto someone’s property at that time of morning?  Even among the high-profile cases of police violence against unarmed black people in general and in their home specifically (Botha Jean), the neighbor erred on the right side of the law and called the non-emergency police number and explained the situation which was not critical and hoped for the best. Instead, Atatiana Jefferson received the worst from Officer Dean, the Fort Worth police department and mainstream media outlets. 

The police had the audacity to try and malign this young woman’s impeccable character by announcing she owns a gun like 393 million other Americans. Roughly 46 percent of the accounted for United States population owns guns. In fact, 36 percent of accounted for Texans own guns, so what does the fact that the victim (the whole human being whose life was snuffed out) have to do with the price of tea in China? Not a damned thing.

Once again an unarmed black woman is dead for no reason other than a trigger happy, poorly trained officer looking for paid time-off. Please stop calling him a Rookie. He had been on the police force for a year and a half and with the recent Botha Jean case in Ft. Worth should have known better than to do what he did. The silence of the NRA and police unions on the senseless killing of Black people being Black in their homes is deafening.

If you cannot eat a bowl of ice cream in your home like Jean or play video games with your nephew and care for your elderly family in your home like Jefferson without being shot and killed by a police officer then what are Black people to do?

Dean has been arrested and charged with murder and quickly released on $200,000 bond, which isn’t surprising. As a Black woman, I am horrified that this man who so callously took this young Black woman’s life is allowed to walk among us, particularly when Atatiana Jefferson is not here to defend or speak for herself. Jefferson had the right to protect herself and her family from what she perceived to be a dangerous person breaking into her home, period. For that deduction, she is no longer here while Dean figures out his next steps and his legal team figures out how to justify the unjustifiable.

Like Amber Guyger, the police officer convicted of the murder of Botha Jean, if Dean truly felt he did something wrong, then he would plead guilty and pursue a deal satisfactory to the family and prosecutor. That won’t happen because like the others before him including former police officer Robert Olsen who was found not guilty in the murder of Anthony Hill, an unarmed, naked Black Veteran who was in the midst of a mental breakdown, Dean doesn’t feel that he did anything wrong because what’s another dead, unarmed Black person in America?

In all likelihood he’ll be found not guilty or if found guilty, receive a short sentence like Guyger or former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who fatally wounded Oscar Grant III who was handcuffed, lying on his stomach on a BART platform. Meherle was sentenced to two years behind bars for involuntary manslaughter and was released after serving several months with time served.

My friend Donna White says, “Melanin is not a weapon.” Yet and still too many police officers are able to use Black skin as an excuse to escalate situations that often result in the unlawful arrest or murder of an unarmed Black person or Black person minding their business in their house or on their property.

The only threat to anyone the night of Atatiana’s murder was police officer Aaron Dean, a real threat, not a perceived one. Ultimately Atatiana Jefferson paid for coming in contact with this real threat with the loss of her life and that is truly unacceptable. #SayHerName

This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder and editor-in-chief of the award-winning news blog The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual or @TheBurtonWire.

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