Fort Worth

Fort Worth officials refuse to meet community group’s demands related to police shooting

The city of Fort Worth declined to meet a set of demands issued by a Tarrant County community group in connection with the police shooting of Atatiana Jefferson.

City officials wanted to meet to negotiate the demands from the Tarrant County Coalition for Community Oversight, but members declined to attend, a statement from the organization said.

“We started meeting with them in March,” said Pamela Young, coalition lead organizer, in response to the city’s request for another meeting. “We want action, not another meeting.”

The coalition has demanded all of the police body camera footage related to the shooting, the names of all the officers who answered the call, the firing of Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke and the firing of Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa, who oversees the police department. It also wanted additional charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and child endangerment to be brought against the officer who shot Jefferson, Aaron Dean. He resigned and is charged with murder.

Whether additional charges will be filed is up to the Tarrant County District Attorney, according to city officials. The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office said the case had been received Friday and the office would pursue an indictment of murder from a Tarrant County Grand Jury.

The group also demanded that the city create non-police response teams to address welfare checks, mental health calls, and non-critical incidents, the statement said.

The city said some of the group’s demands are reasonable and that it is already trying to achieve some of them.

Others, according to the city, are unreasonable or prohibited by law.

Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said he will share information with the new police monitor and citizens review board when they are established. City officials stressed they are working hard to bring community oversight of the police department.

“I’ve worked hard to make transparency one of the primary focuses of the department,” Kraus said. “I’ve pushed things a little harder than most people in the department and maybe some in the city may have been uncomfortable with.”

Kraus said that the Texas Rangers have declined to investigate the Jefferson police shooting because Fort Worth has ample and available resources to investigate the case on its own.

Also, a demand to release the names of all the officers involved in the preliminary investigation cannot be met because of safety issues. Dean and some of his family members have received threats in connection with the shooting, a city official said.

Meanwhile, officials with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have shared their concern about what they characterize as a growing, unnecessary and terrifying problem: Black residents sitting in their homes, minding their own business and getting shot dead by white police officers.

Legislative action

Neither Botham Jean, a young Dallas accountant, nor Jefferson, a young woman contemplating medical school while caring for an ailing mother, deserved the treatment they received from law enforcement, according to a statement from the Texas branch of the NAACP.

“Atatiana Jefferson was a good person, and I believe the former police officer would have responded differently if he had a call to a white neighborhood about the door being open,” said Estella Williams, Fort Worth NAACP president. “Despite all that we have endured, we call the police for help, but that is sure to happen a lot less now and for apparent reasons.”

Texas NAACP officials are calling for legislative action to reduce the risks that these types of shootings will reoccur, said Gary Bledsoe, Texas NAACP president.

In the Dallas shooting case, Amber Guyger, a police officer who was fired after the killing, testified that she mistakenly went into Jean’s apartment and shot him because she believed he was an intruder inside of her apartment. Guyger was convicted of murder and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Bledsoe said his past experience in these matters has caused him to determine that a greater emphasis must be placed on weeding out law enforcement officers who should not be law enforcement officers.

NAACP officials will consider the creation of laws supported by the minority community that will:

Cause law enforcement agencies to adopt psychological screening tools to better detect inappropriate bias and mental health or emotional conditions adversely affecting law enforcement officers .

Make consistent compensation to families that suffer unjustified deaths of relatives due to the action of law enforcement officers.

And require funding to make sure that all peace officers receive training and certification in handling high-stress situations through simulation tools.

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Mitch Mitchell is an award-winning reporter covering courts and crime for the Star-Telegram. Additionally, Mitch’s past coverage on municipal government, healthcare and social services beats allow him to bring experience and context to the stories he writes.
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