Relatives of Atiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman shot by a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, through a window, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and a former officer accused her of death .
The federal lawsuit was filed Monday by Jefferson’s biological father, Jerome Ekpo Eschor, in the Northern District of Texas against the city of Fort Worth and against the former Fort Worth police officer who shot Jefferson, Aaron Dean. Jefferson’s maternal aunt Venitta Body and paternal aunt Arita Ashore were also cast as plaintiffs.
In a phone interview with NBC News, lead lawyer Tanika J. Solomon said, “Her father Jerome decided to eventually bring some justice to the family and bring a claim to closure.” “It’s not just about money. It is about vengeance. “
Dean, a 35-year-old white man, shot and killed Jefferson last year when his neighbor conducted a simple welfare check, followed by a neighbor who noticed that a door had been left unzipped and he had been caught by a nonmiragency police line. Was called According to court documents, Jefferson woke up late that night and was playing video games with his 8-year-old nephew.
Her death – which 26-year-old black woman Briana Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky police in March, while she was sleeping in her apartment – sparked public outrage, police accountability and racial justice. Call for police system.
In December 2019, a grand jury in Texas convicted Dean, who resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department prior to his arrest. He has pleaded not guilty on the charge of murder. Jim Lane, an attorney for Dean, told NBC 5 Dallas Fourth Worth in October 2019 that the Jefferson shooting was a “tragedy” and Dean says he is “sorry” and his family is in shock. “
Monday’s civil suit, which seeks an unspecified amount for damages and attorneys’ fees, alleges that Dean’s conduct demonstrated “deliberate indifference and conscious disregard” for Jefferson’s constitutional rights and protections.
Fort Worth Police arrived at Jefferson’s home around 2 pm ET on October 12, 2019. The then officer Dean and another Fort Worth police officer responded to the welfare check call. Instead of announcing their presence or knocking, the suit claims, the pair bypassed a gate to the property’s backyard. Police-released body camera footage shows a man shouting, pairing through a window with a flashlight: “Put your hands up – show me your hands,” and then finally the shooting.
Body camera footage showed officers not identifying themselves as police, and it confirmed the order of these incidents.
The Fort Worth Police Department said Press release Dean, the then officer at the time, felt threatened before discharging his weapon.
“A young woman has lost her life, causing unhappiness to her family. All of Fort Worth should surround the family of Atatiana Jefferson with prayer, love and support, “Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said in a statement at the time, with the police chief of the police department” in a position to conduct perfection and transparency. Will work together thorough investigation.”
The Fort Worth Officers Association also made a statement at the time, supporting a “thorough and transparent investigation” into Jefferson’s murder.
“Any loss of life is tragic, but the reported circumstances surrounding this incident are heartbreaking. “We joined the citizens of Fort Worth in mourning the death of a member of our youth community,” the association said in a statement. “We are urging the Fort Worth Police Department to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation, and through that investigation we hope to gain clarity and understanding of what exactly happened.”
Solomon insisted on Thursday that Jefferson did nothing wrong.
“At that fateful night, Atatiana was bearing a child for her nephew,” Solomon said, adding Atatiana was a dutiful aunt. It was a young woman, a law-abiding citizen, not a stain or defect on her record.
The lawsuit also argued that the City of Fort Worth has been among the first examples of excessive force in Jefferson’s alleged murder to reprimand Dean and thwart adequately trained officers.
According to the suit, the city of Fort Worth “knew or should have known that defendant Aaron Dean exhibited a pattern of moving forward with the public,” and the city responded with policies, practices and intentional indifference to the rights of citizens Customs encouraged. . “
The suit did not elaborate on these alleged instances of prior excessive force, and the Fort Worth Police did not immediately return a request for comment.
“There was no good reason, there was no reason for the man to jump the fence and attack what he did, except that he was not properly trained, not properly supervised, at first. Was not reprimanded, ”said Solomon.
When reached for comment, the Fort Worth Police Department said they were “unable to provide any comment” due to a gag order in place.
Jefferson, who died as a result of a gunshot wound to his home, graduated from Xavier University with a chemistry degree. She returned home after college to help the family with medical issues and was planning to attend medical school.
“We believe now is the time for Atatiana to do her justice,” Solomon said. “It is our hope, our view that this case will be one that will have a lasting impact on our criminal justice system, on the police, in de-escalation and training in sensitivity.”
“The city of Fort Worth is not a big city, however, the world is watching,” Solomon said.
After her death, Jefferson’s siblings became active in the Fort Worth community through grassroots organizations and foundations in Jefferson’s memory. Most of the proceeds from the lawsuit, Solomon said, “will allow the family to grow and develop in the name of Atiana.”