- The officer who fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson in her home early Saturday resigned from the department before he could be fired Monday.
- Shortly after, he was arrested and charged with murder.
- He was released from jail on a $200,000 bond a few hours later.
- Fort Worth police officials said they presented a preliminary case to the FBI to review for possible civil rights violations.
Ex-Officer Charged With Murder
The former Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson while she was home playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew Saturday was arrested and charged with murder.
Aaron Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Correction Center Monday evening. He was released about three hours after his arrest after posting a $200,000 bond, according to county inmate records. Police declined to say whether Dean was arrested by the department or if he turned himself in.
The murder charge is the latest development in a case that has sparked national outrage and reignited conversations about police accountability. Just hours before his arrest, Dean resigned from the department before he could be terminated.
Members of the Fort Worth community and Jefferson’s family are glad to see action being taken against the former officer, after a long weekend of calling for justice.
“The family of Atatiana Jefferson is relieved that Aaron Dean has been arrested & charged with murder,” Lee Merritt, an attorney for Jefferson’s family, said in a statement.
“A murder charge and an arrest is a good start — it’s more than we are used to seeing.”
However, like many others, Merritt is waiting to see how the case is prosecuted.
“He did get what I wanted him to get, and this is only the start,” Jefferson’s brother Adarius Carr told CNN. “There’s no way this is enough. We know this is a good step in the direction where we want to go, but it’s definitely not the end.”
Department Explains Resignation
Dean, who had been commissioned as a licensed officer with the department since April 2018, was served a written administrative complain on Sunday. He was also placed on detached duty and stripped of his badge and gun, Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said at a news conference Monday when announcing the officer’s resignation.
“My intent was to meet with him today to terminate his employment with the Fort Worth Police Department. However, the officer tendered his resignation this morning before we met,” Chief Kraus explained.
Had he not resigned, Kraus said Dean would have been terminated for several policy violations, including the department’s use of force and de-escalation policies, as well as unprofessional conduct. Kraus said that Dean’s separation paperwork will still indicate that he was dishonorably discharged from employment with the department.
“I get it,” Kraus said of the public’s outrage following the release of body camera footage from the shooting. The clip showed that Jefferson had been given no warning that the men who had crept into her backyard were police officers. When Dean spotted her through her bedroom window, he quickly shined a flashlight at her and shouted “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” then immediately fired the fatal shot at her.
“Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” the chief said.
The chief also addressed backlash the department faced over the mention of a firearm police said they found in Jefferson’s room. In the released bodycam footage, police included stills of the firearm, without offering any other information about its relation to the incident.
“Law enforcement has not said that she wielded a weapon,” Attorney Lee Merritt said adding that Jefferson legally owned the weapon. “Also, it wouldn’t matter, because that’s her home.”
Jefferson’s attorney also noted that she moved near the bedroom window because she was concerned about a prowler or burglar who might have been outside.
Kraus said he regretted that the department had released those images of the gun on the floor below the window in the bedroom after she was killed. He declined to say if she was holding it or if the officer saw it before he shot her, but he said that she had every right to have a gun in her bedroom.
“We’re homeowners in the state of Texas,” he said. “I can’t imagine most of us — if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn’t be and we had access to a firearm — that we wouldn’t act very similarly to how she acted.”
Kraus noted that the department had presented a preliminary case to the FBI to review for possible civil rights violations, adding, “None of this information can ease the pain of Atatiana’s family but I hope it shows the community that we take these incidents seriously.”
Death of Atatiana Jefferson
Atatiana Jefferson had recently moved home to help care for her mother whose health was declining. She worked selling medial equipment and was studying to apply for medical school. On the day of her death, she stayed up with her nephew into the early hours of Saturday morning playing video games.
After noticing that Jefferson’s front and side doors had been open for several hours, a concerned neighbor called a nonemergency line requesting a wellness check on the residents inside.
Officers arrived around 2:30 a.m. but did not identify themselves as police when approaching the home. In fact, the neighbor who called authorities, James Smith, told local reporters that officers did not park in the driveway or in front of the home where Jefferson could see them but instead parked around the corner.
The bodycam footage released Saturday showed officers peeking into a screen door and walking around the perimeter of the home into the backyard where the fatal shot was fired.
Officers tried to provide Jefferson with medical assistance, but she died at the scene shortly after being shot. Her young nephew was in the room for the shooting and her death, according to authorities.
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. Less than two weeks before Jefferson’s murder, Guyger was convicted or murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
While many in the community are hoping to see justice for Jefferson’s death, activists said this is the seventh local police shootings involving civilians, with six of them being fatal. Community members say the trauma they feel and their fear of the police department will be difficult to repair.
The neighbor who called for the wellness check himself has even expressed guilt over his decision. “I’m shaken. I’m mad. I’m upset. And I feel it’s partly my fault,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
In an interview with CNN, he added, “I feel guilty because had I not called the Fort Worth Police Department, my neighbor would still be alive today,”
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)
Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air
While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.
Booster Rollout in Flux
President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.
The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.
However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.
The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.
Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.
Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.
Debate Continues in Crucial Week
More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.
On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.
The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide.
On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.
The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.”
Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.
“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”
It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.
Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.
Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.
Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.
“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”