Nearly two weeks after Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old African American woman, was killed in her own home by a white Fort Worth police officer, hundreds gathered to mourn her.
A pastor read the crowd a letter from her mother. A large photo of Jefferson lay next to her casket, which was blue — her favorite color.
“You often said you were going to change the world. ” Rev. Jaime Kowlessar said Thursday, reading Yolanda Carr’s letter. “I think you still will.” Carr, who is ailing, couldn’t make the funeral for health reasons.
The pre-med graduate, known as “Tay,” was eulogized as a loving, caring and dependable aunt who accomplished many things in life.
Pastors say Jefferson’s story is tragically familiar
Pastors at Concord Church in Dallas spoke of the injustice of her death, and called for justice for the family as the officer, Aaron Dean, faces a murder charge.
“We have to be here once again” to sing the “same dirge,” Kowlessar, the senior pastor at Dallas City Temple said, opening the service.
He lamented that Jefferson’s killing was an “untimely death” in an “untimely manner.”
“Many of us are tired of talking to our kids about the police,” said Rev. Bryan Carter of Concord Church. “Tired of seeing tearful mothers on TV. Tired of having the protesters prove that black lives do matter. Tired of having to hope that a jury will get a conviction.”
“Tired of hoping that the body cam will confirm what we already know. Tired of gathering for funerals and tired of praying. Tired of interviews. Tired of protests,” he said. “Tired of incarceration. Tired of underserved communities. Tired of racial profiling.”
Jefferson was playing video games with her 8 year-old nephew, Zion, when two officers arrived, responding to a call from a neighbor about Jefferson’s open front door after 2 a.m. on October 12. As officers walked outside the house, Jefferson heard noises in the backyard, pulled a gun from her purse and pointed it toward the window, police said.
Dean yelled, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” before he fired through the window, killing Jefferson, body camera footage shows.
The officers had not identified themselves as law enforcement.
Dean resigned from the force. His attorney Jim Lane told CNN his client “is sorry and his family is in shock.”
At least two dozen Fort Worth police officers sat throughout the sanctuary. The wore light blue ribbons to honor Jefferson.
Police Chief Ed Kraus said they were there to “support the family.”
Jefferson’s funeral had initially been scheduled for Saturday, but it was delayed by a family dispute. Atatiana’s father, Marquis Jefferson, was granted a temporary restraining order so that he could be included in the preparations. On Thursday, He sat in the front row in a wheelchair.
Afraid in their own homes
Members of the community were angered that Jefferson was killed in her own home by police, and said they did not feel safe in their own homes.
For many black Americans, Jefferson’s fatal shooting has raised fears about the dangers of confronting police in their own homes.
“Why is it that we’re asking people to protect our people that are afraid of our people?” Carl B. Ming, a pastor, asked mourners. “Why is it that the pledge to protect and serve changes when you turn up and realize that the skin color is different?”
In a letter to the family, Rep. Maxine Waters called Jefferson’s death an “outrageous injustice.”
“Something is incredibly wrong with a country where a bright young woman’s life can be taken in her own home by a police officer who swore an oath to protect and serve,” Waters wrote in the letter that was read out loud.
‘She represented hope’
Jefferson had recently moved home to Fort Worth to take care of her ailing mother. On the night she died, she was looking after her nephew while her mother was in the hospital.
Amber Carr, Jefferson’s older sister, said last week that her son shared a special bond with his “Aunt Tay.” They didn’t just play video games together — she taught him life skills, such as writing a schedule to help him stay organized. She showed him how to be better prepared for school.
“The relationship she has with my sons is indescribable,” Carr said. “Sometimes people think that they’re her kids, not mine.”
Jefferson was looking forward to taking her nephews to the State Fair of Texas while Carr recovered from major heart surgery.
Jefferson graduated with a pre-med degree in biology from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2014 and worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales, Merritt said.
Her mother gave all of her children names that began with the letter A. She called them the “A-Team,” Lee Merritt, an attorney representing the family, said.
“She represented hope over adversity and continues to inspire those who knew her and those who are getting to know her through this tragedy,” Merritt said on Twitter.