- A 28-year-old black woman in Texas was shot and killed inside her own home by police while her 8-year-old nephew was nearby.
- Police arrived after a concerned neighbor noticed the family’s doors were open late at night and called a non-emergency hotline asking for a wellness check.
- Responding officers did not announce themselves when arriving at the home but instead walked around to the backyard, where one officer shot into a bedroom window after seeing someone on the other side.
- The officer resigned Monday just before the department could terminate him.
Woman Shot Inside Her Home
Just before she was fatally shot in her Fort Worth, Texas home Saturday, Atatiana K. Jefferson was playing video games in her bedroom with her 8-year-old nephew, a lawyer for her family said Sunday.
At around 2 a.m. local time, the 28-year-old’s neighbor called a non-emergency hotline saying he was concerned about the residents inside the home. The caller, James Smith, explained that the front and side doors to the house had been open since about 10 p.m., which he said was unusual for them considering the time of night, so he wanted to make sure everything was okay.
Now Smith says he regrets making that call. “I feel guilty because had I not called the Fort Worth Police Department, my neighbor would still be alive today,” he told CNN Saturday.
According to a statement released by the Forth Worth Police, officers arrived at the home around 2:30 a.m. to respond to the “open structure call.” After seeing an open door, they walked around the perimeter of the home.
When walking around the residence, the department says an officer saw a person inside standing near a window. “Perceiving a threat the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” police said.
Jefferson was shot while standing in her bedroom. Officers entered the home to administer emergency aid, but she was eventually declared dead at the scene.
Bodycam Footage Released
The department released body camera footage of the shooting Saturday, which showed the officers walking around the home, looking into a screen door, and walking to the backyard. When moving towards a closed window of the first floor, one officer points a flashlight at it before drawing his weapon.
The officer yells, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” before firing a shot less than a second later. Along with the body cam clip, police also released stills of a firearm that officers said they found at the residence, without offering any other information about its relation to the incident or if it was ever visible to officers.
In the footage, officers are never heard identifying themselves as police. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, records provided to the public don’t give any indication that dispatchers told officers the call was a wellness check. The paper also reported that a police call sheet from Saturday labeled the call as a “burglary,” though police called it an “open structure call” in their initial statement.
Smith told reporters that when patrol cars arrived, they did not park in front of the home or in the driveway where Jefferson could have seen them.
Reactions to Shooting
Jefferson’s death has left the community shaken and struggling to trust local authorities. According to the Star-Telegram, this is the seventh local police shooting involving a civilian since June 1.
“The Fort Worth police murdered this woman. They murdered this woman in her own house,” said Rev. Michael Bell, a local pastor who joined a group of community leaders for a Saturday press conference. “And now, African Americans, we have no recourse. If we call the police, they will come and kill us. And we know that.”
Smith also told the Star-Telegram, “I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault.”
“I don’t know what went on in the house, but I know that she wasn’t a threat,” he added.
The shooting has drawn comparisons to the 2018 killing of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old black man who had been watching T.V. and eating ice cream inside his apartment when he was shot and killed by former off-duty Dallas officer Amber Guyger. Guyger was recently convicted of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison
Lee Merritt, the local civil rights attorney who represents Jean’s family, is now taking on the Jefferson family’s case. On Saturday, Merritt told reporters, “You didn’t hear the officer say ‘gun, gun, gun,’ you didn’t hear him — he didn’t have time to perceive a threat.”
“That’s murder” he added. Aside from criticizing the officers’ responding tactics, many were upset that police also mentioned Jefferson having a weapon in her home without more explanation. “Law enforcement has not said that she wielded a weapon,” Merritt said, adding that she owned a gun legally. “Also, it wouldn’t matter, because that’s her home.”
Merritt also said that Jefferson was proud to be the “cool auntie” to her siblings’ children and stayed up late into the night to play Halo on Xbox with her nephew. Merritt argued that when she went near the bedroom window, it was because she was concerned about a prowler or burglar who might have been outside. According to police, Jefferson’s nephew was still in the bedroom at the time she was killed.
Fight for Justice
Jefferson’s relatives and friends in the community promised to fight and hold the department accountable for her death as the investigation continues. About 500 people gathered peacefully in front of her home Sunday chanting for justice and encouraging people to register to vote.
Others called for the officer to be fired and prosecuted, however, they added that accountability will not erase the pain that the incident has caused.
“It’s another one of those situations where the people that are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” Amber Carr, Jefferson’s older sister, told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth.
“You want to see justice, but justice don’t bring my sister back,” Carr told reporters before breaking down into tears.
The department did not initially name the officer responsible for the death but described him as a white male who has been with the department since April 2018. He was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
After a weekend of intense pressure, the officer, who has since been identified as Aaron Dean, resigned from the department Monday.
Interim Police Chief Ed-Kraus announced at a news conference that he had intended on firing the officer, but Dean tendered his resignation first. The news came just hours after Jefferson’s family demanded an outside investigation into the shooting and called for the officer’s arrest.
Jefferson, who went by Tay, graduated in 2014 from Xavier University in Louisiana with a degree in biology. She was working from home, selling pharmaceutical equipment, as she studied to apply to medical school and had moved in to help take care of her mother who had recently fallen sick.
A GoFundMe for her family was created and has already raised its $150,000 goal to help fund funeral costs and other expenses associated with her death.
See what others are saying: (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) (Vox) (The New York Times)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)
U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide
India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.
One Million Dead
The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.
Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.
The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.
By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.
The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.
The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.
The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.
People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.
Fifteen Million Dead
On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.
Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.
Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.
The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.
“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.
Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.
See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)
Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”
Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.
New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer
Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.
“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”
Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.
Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”
“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.
Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.
Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.
“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”
Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.
Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.
Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.
It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.
During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”
At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.”