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Black anger, no hugs and pressing for justice after Ft. Worth shooting

By Richard B. Muhammad, Charlene Muhammad and Cavon Muhammad | Last updated: Oct 15, 2019 - 8:57:20 PM

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FORT WORTH, Texas—When the mayor showed up at a vigil for a Black woman shot to death in her home by a White police officer, she didn’t get a friendly reception and some Blacks aren’t looking for a kumbaya moment. Amid seething Black anger and no hugging, the police department moved quickly to condemn the killing and call for outside investigations.

By Monday afternoon, Oct. 14, the officer, Aaron Dean, 34,  had been charged with murder and booked into jail. He had resigned earlier that day.

Blacks, however, are pressing the demands for justice with family attorney Lee Merritt saying the officer should not have been allowed to resign and should have been fired immediately.

Reverend Michael Bell organized an Oct. 13 candlelight vigil at Masjid Hasan, located just a few feet away from Atatiana Jefferson’s home. 

Mr. Dean, the 35-year-old White, male officer who fatally shot the young Black woman in her own home, resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department before he could be fired, according to Chief Edwin Kraus. Mr. Dean was among officers responding to a non-emergency call Oct. 11, when a neighbor simply wanted police to check on his neighbor. He had seen her doors open and lights on around 2:30 a.m. Instead police crept around the outside of the home and officer Dean, who didn’t identify himself as a police officer, yelled instructions from outside the home. In seconds, he fired a fatal shot as Ms. Jefferson was playing a video game with Zion, her eight-year-old nephew.

Black outrage was fresh and the mayor’s arrival didn’t change anything. “The difference we had in this was that we did not have any singing, no praying, and no holding hands in a kumbaya moment because White folks are used to us, after some trauma or tragedy, coming together for a minute or two and holding hands and singing We Shall Overcome, or praying or singing, and what we’ve done this time, we decided that we weren’t going to do that,” Rev. Bell told The Final Call.


“The mayor showed up, by the way, and the crowd told her to leave! And the crowd surged toward her, and she jumped in the SUV she was in and left. As a matter of fact, the crowd, excuse my language, said ‘Get the hell away from here.  Get the hell out,’ ” Rev. Bell continued.

The vigil morphed into a rally and protest. “The people weren’t interested in lighting candles. They demanded justice. I was standing next to a woman passing out candles, and they didn’t want them,” said an attendee who spoke to The Final Call on condition of anonymity.

People shouted, “Lock him up! Lock him up,” while marching towards Mayor Betsy Price, who stood a little ways down the street. 

The crowd was diverse and included people of various ethnicities and religious backgrounds. A man who appeared to be a Jewish rabbi was directing traffic. 

Men with guns, dressed in camouflage fatigues, turned away  anyone who they felt looked like a Negro preacher.  This was not the usual peaceful protest. 

Speakers encouraged boycotts, some called for pulling children out of public schools as well as holding a day of absence from school. 

What police did to Ms. Jefferson is not new, said grassroots Black leaders, activists, and concerned residents. Since June, they noted, there have been 10 police-related shootings, seven fatal.

“I think everybody in the city of Fort Worth, if you’re an African American, is suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  This has happened far too often in our community,” said Deborah Peoples, chair of the Terra County Democratic Party.  

“We have seen a sustained and systemic assault on the African American community by the police here and by quite frankly leadership! There’s a total disregard for our lives and our safety,” said Ms. Peoples.


“This person did everything that White America said we need to do to be accepted and to be successful and look what happened to her. She was killed in her own home, so what does that say to the rest of Black America, who maybe don’t have a college degree, who maybe aren’t staying to take care of a relative? Our lives don’t mean anything, so I am very disturbed about this, very disturbed,” she added.

The grieving family called for an independent, federal investigation, better police training, and swift and appropriate prosecution of Mr. Dean.

“That he was given two days to wipe all of his accounts and to prepare a statement, and then to peacefully resign is absurd on the heels of a murder.  More importantly, if I kill someone in the course and scope of my job, whether or not I’m employed the next day is the least of my concerns. He should be behind bars,” Atty. Merritt told The Final Call prior to filing of the murder charges.

“There is more than enough probable cause that he committed murder. Probable cause is all you need in this jurisdiction to make an arrest. Why he isn’t arrested yet speaks to the continual problem of special treatment for law enforcement when they are responsible or when they are suspected of a crime,” said Atty. Merritt.

“We need the criminal justice system to start treating criminal cops like all criminal suspects. Right now, they’re given a leg up in almost every possible advantage, and so his resignation is a slap in the face of the family, because he shouldn’t have been allowed to resign in the first place,” he added.

Ms. Jefferson’s family expressed gratitude for the outpouring of love and support they have been receiving, during a press conference with Atty. Merritt on Oct. 14. They want the Fort Worth Police Department to recuse itself from the investigation, and they want the ex-officer, who’d been on the force since April 2018, treated like any other criminal suspect, said Atty. Merritt.  

“We demand justice.. The family of Atatiana and the world eagerly awaits your response to this tragedy. It is imperative that your response bends towards justice,” stated Ashley Carr, Atatiana’s sister.

Through tears, loved ones painted a picture of a kind, gentle, caring soul who was a pre-medicine graduate of Xavier University. Amber Carr recalled their last encounter. Ms. Jefferson, who moved in with her mother to take care of their ailing mother, visited her about a week before she was killed. Amber Carr was recovering from major heart surgery in the hospital, and her baby sister brought her some food and a new cell phone during a visit, she said.  

“My sister, the relationship she has with my sons is indescribable. Sometimes people think that they’re her kids and not mine,” said Ms. Carr.  Her sister helped her son become more independent, self-sufficient, organized and responsible. Zion was scheduled to begin counseling soon, said Atty. Merritt.

Atty. Merritt said during the press conference that he was pleased that the Fort Worth Police Department released video of the incident immediately, and that it exhibits the kind of transparency necessary to get to the bottom of such cases.  “However, they threw in an unrelated, according to a statement, photograph of a firearm, and in order to impute some bad act or blame on the victim itself that was not necessarily circulating and that’s more like the Fort Worth that we know,” Atty. Merritt told reporters.

What’s absurd is the video shows several officers prowling around the property, “literally crawling, whispering, as if they were conducting some sort of clandestine abstraction,” he added.

“My son who was there to witness the event, you would think that he would show some type of sadness or emotions, but the first time I actually got to see him, and pick him up from a facility for children, the first thing he told me was he was sad … because the police had shot his aunt,” said Ms. Carr.

“But at this time, he’s my motivation. He’s my biggest encourager. In the middle of the night when I’m crying, he wakes up and tells me to breathe in my nose and out my mouth. He holds me. He hugs me. And these are the things I should be doing for him, but he’s not reacting in that manner. He’s helping me to be strong, and I believe that’s because my sister had a big part in that,” said Ms. Carr.

“Any parent would be proud to call her a daughter. Any sibling would be proud to call her a sister. Any employer would be proud to call her an employee. Any neighborhood would proud to have her as a neighbor, and any city would be proud to have her as a citizen,” said Ashley Carr. 

Her brother, Adarius Carr, tried to maintain composure as he called for Aaron Dean’s arrest.

“The family is hurting, and if it does not move us to do something, then something is wrong with us! If you got any kind of heart, you cannot see a family suffering like this and not do something about it,” said Student Minister Lee Muhammad of the Nation of Islam mosque in Fort Worth.

The non-emergency call, placed by James Smith, about his ailing neighbor was released on Oct. 13, and reflects a neighbor concerned about a sick woman across the street, Atty. Merritt said.  

“He gave no indication that he believed that a crime was taking place, that he was in fear for his life, for the safety of the members in that home, or the community,” the attorney stated. “He said he saw some doors open, and so to see (police) again pass those open doors without announcing themselves, to park around the corner so that no one, knowing if they happened to be near the home, could know who they were, and then to escalate the situation as they entered the property, it’s just unacceptable,” Atty. Merritt argued.

“They didn’t say where they found the gun. They didn’t say if she had the gun in her hand. But this man said that he shot because he perceived a threat. The threat that he perceived, no matter what we try to do in this nation, no matter how right we try to be, the perceived threat was that he saw a Black woman, a Black person,” said Min. Lee Muhammad.

The incident comes less than two weeks after a White former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her Black neighbor inside his own apartment. Amber Guyger said during her trial that mistook Botham Jean’s apartment for her own, which was one floor below Mr. Jean’s. She was convicted of murder for Mr. Jean’s September 2018 death, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Atty. Merritt was among lawyers for the Jean family.

Rev. Bell, who is also chair of the Million Man March Holy Day of Atonement Local Organizing Committee in Fort Worth, said, “If you call the police department, you’re risking death, so we have to police our own communities.” Activists are in the process of establishing an alternative emergency response hotline for people to call for protection first, and then 911 if they feel they need or want to, he said.

“I know how that sounds, but we have no choice, because if you call 911, you might not get through that call, because once they come, are they going to shoot you? Right now in Fort Worth, you don’t know if you’re going to make it to the grocery store safely, and I’m not exaggerating.”

“This proves there is no safe haven for the Black man and woman in White America,” commented Ava Muhammad, spokesperson for Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan. “If you’re home, and this is following the conviction of Amber Guyger, that right away a Black woman is shot to death. We are being sent a message by our enemy that what is against the law is our presence,” said Min. Ava Muhammad, who is also an attorney and former prosecutor.

Abdul Haleem Muhammad, Southwest regional minister for the Nation of Islam based in Houston, said, “Texas is just a precursor of what we are about to experience around the country.”

“We know White supremacy is falling and as it falls, there will be more heinous acts of murder against our people by White supremacy, which is to say the police. And it’s going to be so blatant and open that it’s going to be shameful,” commented Cephus “Uncle Bobby X” Johnson, an anti-police terrorism activist.

“We at a point where even the advocacy for special prosecutors may be the next step,” he said. “It’s still going to take our attention to be involved.”

A California law, effective in January, restricts use of deadly force, Uncle Bobby X. But, he said, it will still take involvement to make sure the law is implemented properly.

A lack of police accountability remains a problem nationwide, added the co-founder of the Love Not Blood Campaign, which is based in California.

“It’s not just Ft. Worth where it just happened. It’s happening all across this country still. On average we lose three to four people a day to police shootings alone. Within the last three to five years, we’ve seen selective officers actually get some prison time. But the prison time has been so minimal that there is still no fear of accountability,” he observed.

And, when convicted officers get out, there is still a possibility that they could work in policing, said the activist.