(Reuters) - Pained and angry religious leaders warned Fort Worth, Texas, police they would scrutinize the investigation of an officer who shot and killed a 28-year-old black woman inside a home where, a family lawyer said, she had been playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew.
Atatiana Jefferson was killed by a single shot from a police officer who fired through a window into the home while responding to a call to check on the well-being of those inside, police said in a statement.
The unidentified officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the police department and the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office, police said.
Memories are still fresh in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of a Dallas police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man inside his own apartment after she walked in accidentally, thinking it was her home. On Oct. 1, a jury convicted the former officer, Amber Guyger, of murdering 26-year-old Botham Jean while he ate ice cream.
That marked a rare instance of a police officer being convicted in a series of fatal shootings of African Americans in recent years that have exposed racial tensions in the United States.
“Stop this shooting first and asking questions later, especially when it comes to our community,” Pastor B.R. Daniels Jr. of Beth Eden Missionary Baptist Church said on Saturday in video posted by the Forth Worth Star-Telegram of a gathering at the Greater Saint Stephen First Church.
Body camera video showed police approaching the house with flashlights, whispering to each other in the dark. As one officer looks through a bedroom window, he suddenly yells, “Put your hands up, show me your hands,” then fires. He does not identify himself as a police officer.
Forth Worth police said in a statement the department “shares the deep concerns of the public and is committed to an extremely thorough investigation.”
Daniels said Jefferson was murdered.
“This was on a non-emergency call for a wellness check ... How do your storm a house, kill a young lady with an 8-year-old minor in the house who could have been killed himself?” Daniels said.
‘RISKING YOUR LIFE’
Other leaders raised similar questions.
“We are at a point where African Americans, not just here but we see in Dallas as well, where African Americans can’t call the police because to make that call means that you are risking your life,” Michael Bell, senior pastor at the Greater Saint Stephen First Church, said in the Star-Telegram video.
Recalling the grief of the Guyger/Jean shooting, Pastor Rodney McIntosh of Christ the Risen King Church said citizens needed to sustain their vigilance beyond the typical two or three weeks of outrage following such shootings.
“I want to find our how you are going to twist this one to make it seem as though it’s justified for you killing this lady in her house,” McIntosh said.
Police said a firearm was recovered from the home and posted a photograph of a handgun on the floor in the bedroom, but gave no other details. It was unclear whether Jefferson had the weapon when she was shot.
Jefferson was playing video games with her nephew when they heard what they believed to be a prowler outside, the Star-Telegram reported, citing her relatives’ attorney. When she went to the window to check, she was shot, the attorney said.
Neighbor James Smith told reporters he called police after he noticed the door was open, which he said seemed abnormal and made him worry for his neighbors’ well-being.
“It makes you not want to call the police department,” Smith told the Star-Telegram. “If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with?”
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Zieminski
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