Crime

Sharpton speaks to Fort Worth audience via telephone at King visit anniversary event

The funeral for a woman who was shot to death last week by a Fort Worth police officer in a case that has fueled demonstrations and pleas for radical policing reforms in the city was canceled Saturday as her relatives sort out who should direct the services.

It was not clear when a funeral would happen.

A Dallas County Probate Court judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order, sought by the slain woman’s father, that stopped Jefferson’s aunt and a funeral home from continuing with their plans.

The judge also ordered the aunt and a representative of the funeral home to appear at a Monday hearing to determine whether to issue an injunction in the case.

“The outpouring of global support for Atatiana Jefferson reflects the need for our collective communities to heal,” The Potter’s House, the Dallas church where the funeral was to be held, wrote in a statement. “We pray that her memory will not be overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding her death, but rather her legacy be respected, protected, honored and celebrated for the fullness of her life.”

Jefferson, who was black, was shot by Aaron Dean, a white police officer who resigned and was charged Friday with murder.

Also Saturday, the tone of what had been planned as a jubilant event to mark the 60th anniversary of a visit to Fort Worth by Martin Luther King Jr. turned grim because of the circumstances of Jefferson’s killing. About 30 people attended.

Several of the speakers at the King event on Main Street at 8th Street echoed the call from faith leaders that the time had come for a consent decree in Fort Worth in which a U.S. district court judge would guide police department reforms.

Kyev Tatum, the pastor of New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church, has said federal oversight is urgent.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who had been scheduled to deliver remarks at Jefferson’s funeral, spoke by speaker phone at the Main Street event.

“Because [of] the family dispute, they didn’t have the funeral today,” the New York minister said. “But let’s be clear. The issue is not the family. I hope they resolve that. The issue is fairness and justice. And we are going to stand with Rev. Tatum and the faith leaders as they call for a consent decree.”

Isaac Newton Farris, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nephew, said voter registration and interest in local elections was critical.

There is little in Jefferson’s killing that is nebulous, he said.

“This is proof positive that something has to be done,” Farris said. “This case makes that clear.”

Jefferson, 28, was babysitting her 8-year-old nephew Oct. 12 at her mother’s house in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue when she heard noises outside. A neighbor had called the police because he became worried after seeing the doors of the home open.

Thinking there was a prowler in the yard, Jefferson grabbed her gun, looked out of a bedroom window as she held it and was shot by Dean seconds later, according to an arrest warrant filed in the case.

Dean saw Jefferson in the window and then shouted, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!”

Dean then immediately fired a single shot through the window, killing Jefferson, body-worn camera video shows.

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Emerson Clarridge covers crime and other breaking news for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He works evenings and reports on law enforcement affairs in Tarrant County. He previously was a reporter at the Omaha World-Herald and the Observer-Dispatch in Utica, New York.
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