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Officer who killed black woman playing video game ‘should be charged’

The family of Atatiana Jefferson have condemned the responding officer who fired through a window in Fort Worth, Texas.

Protesters outside the house (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Protesters outside the house (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

By Jake Bleiberg, Associated Press

The family of a black woman who was shot and killed by a white police officer in her Texas home as she played video games with her eight-year-old nephew have expressed outrage that the officer has not been arrested or fired.

Fort Worth Police Department said officers responded early on Saturday morning after a neighbour called a non-emergency line to report the home’s front door had been left open.

The responding officer fired a shot through a window, killing 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson.

“Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community,” family lawyer Lee Merritt said at a news conference in Dallas on Monday.

The police officer, whose name has not been officially released, should be fired, Mr Merritt said, adding: “That’s the least we should expect.”

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Bouquets of flowers outside the home (Jake Bleiberg/AP)

Fort Worth is about 30 miles west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year. In that case, white Dallas police officer Amber Guyger fatally shot her black neighbour Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook it for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.

On Monday, family members described Ms Jefferson as a smart, nurturing woman who recently moved in with her mother to help care for her. A sister, Ashley Carr, said Ms Jefferson embodied honour, integrity, commitment and service.

“Any neighbourhood would be proud to have her as a neighbour and any city would be proud to have her as a citizen,” Ms Carr said.

Fort Worth police said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his duty weapon and fired after “perceiving a threat”. Bodycam video released by police shows two officers searching the home from the outside with flashlights before one shouts: “Put your hands up, show me your hands.” One shot is then fired through a window.

In the video, the officer does not identify himself as police.

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Bodycam footage (Fort Worth Police Department/AP)

According to a demographics report released by the police department, nearly two-thirds of its 1,100 officers were white, as of June 30. Just over 20% were Hispanic or Latino and about 10% were black.

Fort Worth Police Officers Association issued a statement calling for “a thorough and transparent investigation” into the shooting.

Fort Worth police said they released the bodycam footage soon after the shooting for transparency, but that any “camera footage inside the residence” could not be distributed due to state law.

The video included blurred still frames showing a gun inside a bedroom.

It is unclear if the firearm was found near Ms Jefferson, and police have not said that the officer who shot her thought she was holding a gun. The police statement released on Saturday said only that officers who entered the residence after the shooting found a firearm.

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A community vigil (Smiley N Pool/Dallas Morning News/AP)

Lieutenant Brandon O’Neil said the officer will meet investigators from the police department on Monday about the shooting. Police previously said the officer, a white man, joined the department in April last year.

A large crowd gathered outside Ms Jefferson’s home on Sunday night for a vigil after earlier demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on part of Interstate 35.

Ms Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, the university said.

Mr Merritt said she was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going back to medical school.

PA

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