- 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)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”