Inside of Greater Saint Stephen First Church there was anger, frustration and the feeling this is all too familiar.
More than 10 African-American community leaders and pastors gathered in the chapel around noon Saturday, visibly processing their emotions in the wake of the news that a white Fort Worth officer fatally shot a black woman in her home on East Allen Avenue a little after 2 a.m. A neighbor, James Smith, had noticed her doors were open and lights were on, so he called police to conduct a welfare check.
The woman who was killed was Atatiana Jefferson, 28, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The shooting marked the seventh time since June 1 a Fort Worth police officer had shot a civilian. Six of those people died.
The community leaders, who stood behind a podium and took turns addressing those in attendance, spoke about what the series of shootings means to black residents — the fear they represent. How a black person could feel nervous to pick up the phone to call police.
The Rev. Michael Bell, of Greater Saint Stephen, said the shooting evokes the killing of Botham Jean, the black 26-year-old man who was killed in his apartment by Amber Guyger, a white Dallas police officer who entered his apartment last year thinking it was her own.
Guyger was found guilty of murder Oct. 2 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Bell said he wants people to call the shooting in Fort Worth what it is — murder — and to see the officer who fired the shot held accountable. He also said Mayor Betsy Price and Police Chief Ed Kraus need to address systemic racism within the police department.
“The Fort Worth police murdered this woman. They murdered this woman in her own house,” Bell said. “And now, African Americans, we have no recourse. If we call the police, they will come and kill us. And we know that.”
Price and City Manager David Cooke canceled a trip to Phoenix they had planned Sunday to attend economic development meetings because of Jefferson’s death.
On Saturday evening, Price released a statement about the shooting.
“Writing a statement like this is tragic and something that should never be necessary. A young woman has lost her life, leaving her family in unbelievable grief. All of Fort Worth must surround Atatiana Jefferson’s family with prayers, love and support,” Price said in the statement. “Chief Kraus and his command staff are acting with immediacy and transparency to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”
Price said more details on the shooting are forthcoming, and the Tarrant County District Attorney Law Enforcement Incident Team will ultimately receive the case.
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SOURCE: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Jack Howland