After Another Texas Police Killing, Can Citizens Feel Safe Calling the Cops?

Flowers lie on the sidewalk in front of the house in Fort Worth, Texas, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, where a white Fort Worth police officer shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, a black woman, through a back window of her home. The police officer was responding to a call about an open front door acted without justification and resigned Monday before he could be fired, the police chief said. (AP Photo/David Kent)

Source AP

Why you should care

Dallas-Fort Worth has yet another case of police shooting a person of color in their own home. Could this one mark a turning point?

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WHAT TO KNOW

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Aaron Dean

Source Tarrant County Correction Center

What happened? On Saturday, Atatiana Jefferson’s neighbor called police to check on her because her door was open. The officer, Aaron Dean (pictured), sneaked around the house and gave less than half a second of warning before shooting Jefferson through the window. She died, and Dean resigned hours before being charged with murder on Monday — an unusually quick progression for an officer-involved shooting. 

Why does it matter? The Dallas-Fort Worth area just saw the denouement of its last high profile case of a White police officer shooting an unarmed Black person in their own home. Amber Guyger, a Dallas officer, walked into 26-year-old Botham Jean’s apartment — allegedly thinking it was her own — and killed him. She was initially charged with manslaughter and it took weeks for her to be fired and nearly three months for the charges to be upgraded to murder — whereas for Dean this all happened within days. Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison this month. 

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

Funeral Held For Botham Shem Jean, Who Was Killed By Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger When She Entered Wrong Apartment

Allison Jean, mother of Botham Shem Jaen, is embraced by a supporter after a press conference at Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on September 13, 2018 in Richardson, Texas. Jean was killed when a Dallas Police officer who accidentally went into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was her own and shot him.

Source Getty Images

One step forward, two steps back. While Dean’s swift charges may indicate changes in how police shootings are handled, some things were eerily similar to the Guyger case. After Jean’s death, police swiftly released information about small amounts of marijuana found in his apartment. After Jefferson’s shooting, they informed the press that a gun had been found in her house, though there’s no indication she was holding or using it while playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew at around 2:25 a.m. On another note, Dean is already out of prison on bail.

A history of violence. Guyger’s sentencing made her the third officer convicted of murder in Dallas County since 2017. But neighboring Tarrant County, which includes Fort Worth, has its own history of police shooting people on their own property. In 2013, officers responding to a burglary call went to the wrong address and shot 72-year-old Jerry Waller in his garage. While a grand jury declined to indict the officer in that case, Waller’s family has filed a lawsuit against the Fort Worth Police, and a judge has ruled it can move forward. 

Who you gonna call? Not the police. The neighbor who called for a wellness check on Jefferson expressed sadness to reporters and was one of many voices questioning who Black people can call for help, when police encounters so often leave innocent people dead. In fact, research released this summer from Rutgers University found that for Black men in their late 20s, encounters with police cause more deaths than diabetes.

WHAT TO READ

A Black Woman Was Shot and Killed in Her House. We Need Real Justice, by Derecka Purnell  in The Guardian

“People understandably want police officers to be punished for killing black people. They also hope that prison will send a warning message to other officers that they cannot get away with murder. But that’s not how policing works.”

Deaths of  Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean Show How Police Training Emphasizes Danger to Cops over Community, by Jennifer Emily and Cassandra Jaramillo in the Dallas Morning News 

“The National Black Police Association in a statement Monday criticized the Fort Worth police department and Dean. The association also called for law enforcement to improve its hiring and training tactics.”

WHAT TO WATCH

Atatiana Jefferson’s Neighbors Upset With Fort Worth City Leaders In Wake Of Deadly Shooting

Watch on CBS DFW on YouTube:

“Just to think that I cannot be safe in my own home is baffling to me.” 

Family of Atatiana Jefferson Wants Justice

Watch on Inside Edition on Youtube:

“Today the police chief said he was planning to fire Officer Dean but the officer resigned before he could be fired.”

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Broken trust. One of the leading witnesses in the Guyger case, Joshua Brown, was shot in the mouth and killed just a week after testifying in what police say was a drug deal gone wrong. While officers in Dallas deny any involvement, conspiracy theories abound — and could keep community members from testifying in other officer-involved cases. 

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