Atatiana Jefferson’s death was like an earthquake, sending shockwaves — of grief, of anger, of frustration, of loss — through her family and around the world, Pastor Bryan Carter said Thursday as the 28-year-old was laid to rest.
“Why now? Why this? Why her? Why this way?” Carter asked in a eulogy he gave for Jefferson at his church, Concord Church in the Red Bird area of southern Dallas.
“Someone so young in such a prime season of her life,” he said. “This is an earth-shaking experience.”
The funeral came nearly two weeks after a Fort Worth officer killed Jefferson in her home Oct. 12. The officer, Aaron Dean, resigned and is the first Tarrant County lawman to be charged with murder.
Dozens of Jefferson’s family and friends, as well as elected officials from around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, paid their respects Thursday at the church, where Jefferson’s body lay in a sky blue casket flanked by blue and white roses.
Clergy members walked alongside Jefferson’s family in a procession, each stopping at the casket. Some relatives sobbed audibly at the sight of Jefferson’s body.
Carter said the “earthquake” of Jefferson’s death not has not only shaken her family, but an entire community left exhausted in the wake of another life needlessly cut short.
“The truth of the matter is that many of us are tired,” he said. “Tired of talking to our kids about the police. Tired of seeing tearful mothers on TV. Tired of having to protest and prove that black lives do matter. Tired of having to hope that a jury will get a conviction. Tired of hoping that the body cam will confirm what we already know.”
But there is solace, he said, referencing Psalm 46, because “the text doesn’t stop with the earthquake.”
“There will be times where what you thought was stable will be snatched away,” Carter said. “There will be times when injustice happens, and the text says this: And God is our refuge and strength.”
Each of Jefferson’s parents prepared a written tribute to their daughter, remembering their “Tay” as a loving, caring young woman who had a bright future ahead of her.
Yolanda Carr, Jefferson’s mother, was not in attendance, so the Rev. Jaime Kowlessar of City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church read her tribute.
“Like everyone in life, your path was filled with joy and pain,” Carr wrote. “However, you balanced the two with grace, faith, confidence and competence. You often said you were going to change the world, which I believe you still will.”
Carr’s health has been declining, her family has said, and has recently been hospitalized. Jefferson had moved back into her mother’s home recently to help take care of her, her siblings have said.
Jefferson’s father, Marquis Jefferson, wrote in his tribute that because of his daughter, his purpose was “clearer than ever before.” He said he would start the Atatiana “Tay” Jefferson Foundation to support aspiring black doctors, address homelessness and ease stress in poverty-stricken communities.
“I will forever have in my mind how loving and kind you are. I will miss that shining smile and your quiet and strong focus on life — how you never gave up,” said Marquis Jefferson’s wife, reading the tribute on her husband’s behalf.
News of Jefferson’s death quickly spread around the world and sparked calls for police accountability. In a nod to how the case drew national attention, one clergy member read a letter from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters to Jefferson’s mother and father.
Waters wrote that Jefferson’s death was “an outrageous injustice.”
“Something is incredibly wrong in a country where a bright young woman’s life can be taken in her own home by a police officer who swore an oath to protect and serve,” the letter read.
Jefferson’s funeral had been set for last Saturday at The Potter’s House, but her father won a restraining order from a judge that resulted in the service being postponed and moved to a different location.
Source: Dallas Morning News
Hundreds of mourners from across the nation gathered in Dallas on Thursday to grieve the passing of Atatiana Jefferson.
Her bright life was cut short on Oct. 12 by a former Fort Worth police officer’s bullet after she stood in front of a darkened window in her mother’s house with a gun in her hand, according to police records.
Jefferson heard a noise outside her window, rose from playing video games with her nephew, retrieved her gun from her purse, and then walked to the rear of the house to determine what was causing the noise, according to an arrest warrant affidavit charging the officer with murder.
Less than four seconds later, Jefferson was shot. According to their preliminary investigation, police never announced their presence at the Allen Avenue residence.
“How she lived is how we all aspire to be remembered, as someone who was dedicated to family and to her betterment,” said Lee Merritt, the legal representative for Jefferson’s mother.
Merritt said that the police officer named as the shooter in Jefferson’s case has received preferential treatment from police from the start. Fort Worth residents who are concerned about seeing justice done cannot let this case fade from public scrutiny, Merritt said.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” Merritt said. “The protests must continue.”
Jefferson’s mother, Yolanda Carr, could not be at the funeral but asked that a statement from her be read to those in attendance. Carr said she admired her daughter’s humble boldness and her joy for life.
“You also said you would change the world and I believe you still will through your sacrifice,” Carr said.
Atatiana’s father, Marquis Jefferson — who attended the service but also had a statement read — said his daughter had blessed him just by being in his life, and then he quoted an unknown author.
“A father holds his daughter’s hand for only a short while,” his statement said. “But he holds her heart forever.”
Funeral services that had been scheduled for Saturday at the Potter’s House in Dallas were postponed and moved to the Concord Church in Dallas on Thursday morning due to a disagreement between family members that ended up being settled in a Dallas County probate court.
The parking lot was full but the church sanctuary where the crowd for the funeral gathered seemed only sparsely occupied.
Pastor Bryan Carter, who said he did not know the family, said Concord Church was approached Monday and agreed to host the funeral.
The family wanted the funeral to represent a beginning of healing, Carter said.
‘GOD IS A PROMISE OF STRENGTH,’ PASTOR SAYS
Atatiana was known for being smart and known for being caring, Carter said. He likened the end of her life to an earthquake. There are moments like that in life, times when it seems as though there is nothing that you can depend on, Carter said.
“The truth is that many of us are tired,” Carter said. “We are tired of talking to our children about police, tired of crying mothers, tired of funerals, tired of checking the box, tired of hoping the jury will come back with a just verdict.”
The Bible says God is shelter, our refuge when storms come, Carter said. When the earthquake comes, you can run to God.
God is also a promise of strength, Carter said.
“Not only does God have strength, He is a God who will give you strength,” Carter said.
There are things that happen in your life that only God can help you through, he said.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and several members of the City Council were present at the funeral along with several city administrators. Also seen were former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald conversing with interim Police Chief Ed Kraus. Officers hugged Fitzgerald as they passed.
Merritt said that former Dallas Mavericks star Harrison Barnes and Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Malik Jackson were still paying for the funeral. Through a spokesperson, Jackson said Wednesday that he has reached out to families in need before to aid them when they have reached a low point.
“Simply put, because it’s the right thing to do,” Jackson said.
A LIFE CUT SHORT
Before Jefferson died at 28, she graduated with a degree in biology from Xavier University. Plans for medical school were put on hold while she cared for an ailing mother and helped care for her 8-year-old nephew and other family members.
Jefferson had been working as a pharmaceutical sales representative since graduating from college.
Until she gained international recognition for being struck by a bullet fired by Aaron York Dean, a former Fort Worth police officer who resigned from the force two days after killing her, the public knew little about Jefferson’s life, goals and aspirations.
The Jefferson shooting occurred about a week after Amber Guyger, a white former Dallas police officer, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for shooting and killing Botham Jean, a black accountant who was sitting in his own home watching television on the day of his killing.
Guyger testified at her murder trial in September that she believed Jean was a criminal intruder inside her apartment, but she realized after shooting him that she had entered the wrong apartment.
In the days after Jefferson’s death, police released body camera footage from outside the house where she was babysitting her nephew, and the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office announced that it would seek an indictment for murder against the ex-police officer.
The body camera footage included photos that showed a gun on the floor of Jefferson’s residence, but Price said during a press conference that the gun was immaterial to the case and that she did not know why the images of the gun were released.
Hours after Dean resigned, he was arrested by police on a murder charge. Less than three hours after his arrest, Dean was freed from jail after satisfying a $200,000 bond.
Dean has exercised his right to remain silent, which is available to any suspect, and has not agreed to be interviewed by Fort Worth police detectives investigating the shooting, according to police.
So far in 2019, more than 700 people have been shot and killed by police officers, or about two to three people each day, according to the Washington Post.
Victor Pratt, the son of a retired Fort Worth police officer who now lives in Grand Prairie and said that he grew up around police in Fort Worth, brought a bouquet of red roses to the funeral to present to others in attendance.
“I wanted to take a pause and show Atatiana Jefferson that her life meant something,” Pratt said. “I just wanted to pay my respects.”