US officer kills black woman inside her home after welfare call

Police fatally shoot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through window of her home after request to check on her welfare.

    Still from the body camera video released by the Fort Worth Police Department [Fort Worth Police Department/AP]
    Still from the body camera video released by the Fort Worth Police Department [Fort Worth Police Department/AP]

    An African American woman has been fatally shot in the United States by a white officer inside her home early on Saturday after police were called to the residence for a welfare check, authorities said.

    The shooting in Forth Worth, Texas, occurred after a neighbour called the police non-emergency line to report that the front door to the home was open, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

    In body camera video released by police, two officers search the home from the outside with flashlights before one shouts, "Put your hands up, show me your hands." One shot is then fired through a window.

    Police said in a statement that the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office identified her as 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson. 

    The officer does not identify himself as a police officer in the video. Police said the officer, who has been on the force since April 2018, was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

    Officials have not released the officer's name.

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    In the statement, police said the responding officers saw a person near the window inside the home. The officer fired the single shot after "perceiving a threat", the statement said. The bodycam video also included images of a gun inside the residence, but it is unclear if the firearm was found near the woman.

    Neighbour James Smith, who initially called the police, told the Star-Telegram he was just trying to be a good neighbour.

    "I'm shaken. I'm mad. I'm upset. And I feel it's partly my fault," Smith said. "If I had never dialled the police department, she'd still be alive."

    Smith said Jefferson and her 8-year-old nephew typically lived with an older woman, who has been in the hospital. "It makes you not want to call the police department," the neighbour said.

    Local activists held a news conference on Saturday, asking the city to hold the officer who fired the shot accountable. Pastor BR Daniels Jr said he wants the police department to stop what he called "shooting first, asking questions later". 

    "We want a review of policy, procedures. How do you storm a house, kill a young lady, with an 8-year-old minor in the house, who could have been killed himself," Daniels said.

    Many took to social media to express their grief and call for accountability. 

    Authorities said the bodycam footage was released soon after the shooting to provide transparency, but any video taken inside the house could not be distributed due to state law.

    The shooting comes less than two weeks after a white former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbour inside his own apartment. Amber Guyger said during her trial that she mistook Botham Jean's apartment for her own, which was one floor below Jean's.

    Guyger, 31, was convicted of murder for Jean's death in September 2018.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies