Why the Church’s Response to Atatiana Jefferson’s Killing Matters

Atatiana Jefferson is seen here with her nephew. | Facebook

Article by Dr. Michael Bell. Bell is the senior pastor of Greater St. Stephen First Church in Fort Worth, having served in that role since 1985. He was the president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas from 2005 to 2006.

Atatiana Jefferson, affectionately known by her friends as “Tay,” was a 28-year-old African American woman who was shot and killed by a Fort Worth police officer before dawn on Saturday, Oct. 12, while she was inside her house with her 8-year-old nephew.

What happened to Atatiana Jefferson matters

A concerned neighbor, after he noticed the Jeffersons’ front doors were open uncharacteristically—though the screen doors were closed—called the Fort Worth Police Department’s non-emergency number to request a welfare check.

The police arrived on the scene, parked around the corner from the Jefferson residence, approached the house as if they were responding to an intruder call, bypassed the front door and went to the dark backyard. When Atatiana looked out the back window, one of the officers shot her through the window.

News of Atatiana’s tragic death spread like wildfire across Fort Worth’s African American community.

Who Atatiana Jefferson was matters

Atatiana was a young woman full of possibility and potential. She graduated from Xavier University in New Orleans, where she was a biology major. She was gainfully employed as a pharmaceutical equipment salesperson.

Atatiana was so dedicated to her family that she moved back home to help care for her ailing mother.

Her life was cut short by a person whose job it was to “protect and serve.”

How we feel about this matters

The person who killed Atatiana no longer is on the police force. He has been arrested, charged with murder and is out on bond.

His arrest and the charges leveled against him do nothing to assuage the grief or mitigate the angst of African Americans, not just in Fort Worth, but across the length and breadth of America.

Why we feel this way matters

As I write this, I’m in Chicago, and throughout my stay here, I’ve heard and engaged in numerous conversations about the killing of Ms. Jefferson. As an African American pastor, I have been asked by white pastors and laypersons why there is so much anger, even after the arrest of the former police officer who pulled the trigger that ended Atatiana’s promise.

One response I have given to those well-intentioned inquisitors is: African Americans are informed by a hermeneutic of suspicion. There is versed skepticism in my community regarding the American justice system, skepticism born out of experience. We have been here before.

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Source: Baptist Standard