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Investigations Underway After Texas Police Officer Kills Black Woman Inside Her Home

NOEL KING, HOST:

Early Saturday morning, a white Fort Worth police officer shot and killed a black woman inside of her home. It's the sixth deadly police shooting in Fort Worth, Texas, since June. Bill Zeeble with member station KERA in Dallas reports that many people in Fort Worth are demanding justice for 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson. And just a quick word of warning - the sound of that fatal gunshot can be heard in this story.

BILL ZEEBLE, BYLINE: A Sunday vigil outside the home where Atatiana Jefferson was shot featured a now-familiar refrain.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Chanting) No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No peace.

ZEEBLE: Early Saturday at 2:23 a.m., police say one of Jefferson's neighbors called the Fort Worth police using a nonemergency number. The neighbor was worried because lights were on at the house, and the door was open. Two officers were sent over. The police body cam video shows an officer with flashlight and gun in hand slowly walking around the house. We see the lights on and the open door. We never hear the officer announce his presence or talk to anyone inside until he sees something in the window.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Put your hands up. Show me your hands.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOT)

ZEEBLE: Police say a gun was found in the house, but it's unclear if the victim was holding it when she was shot. Attorney Lee Merritt, retained to represent the family of Ms. Jefferson, says she was playing with her 8-year-old nephew, whom she was taking care of.

LEE MERRITT: That 8-year-old said he and his aunty were playing video games when they heard from someone creeping around outside. She went to investigate at the window. An officer was on the other side, who shouted commands. And before she had a moment to respond, he shot her to death. That's murder.

ZEEBLE: Merritt has recently represented the family of Botham Jean in Dallas. Jean's killer is fired Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. She was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years for killing Jean in his own apartment. Guyger said she mistook his place for hers. In Fort Worth, police say they're still investigating this shooting. They've yet to answer many questions, including, was Jefferson holding the gun that was later found in the house? For now, the officer's name is being withheld. We only know he's been on the police force since April of 2018. Lieutenant Brandon O'Neil read this comment to reporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRANDON O'NEIL: The tragic loss of life has major ramifications for all involved, especially the family of Ms. Atatiana Jefferson. We have communicated with the family and shared our serious and heartfelt concern for this unspeakable loss.

ZEEBLE: Community activists like Pamela Young (ph) say, enough is enough. She's lead organizer for United Fort Worth Criminal Justice Action Team (ph).

PAMELA YOUNG: This officer needs to be fired immediately. And he needs to be arrested and criminally charged with murder. And there needs to be a thorough investigation. And that's going to have to be from an outside agency.

ZEEBLE: Sunday evening, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said the city will hire an outside party to investigate this shooting. She didn't say when that might happen or who would be hired. I'm Bill Zeeble in Fort Worth. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.