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Attorney for Atatiana Jefferson’s Family: Fort Worth Police Blaming the Victim by Focusing on Her Gun


Lee Merritt, the attorney for Atatiana “Tay” Jefferson‘s family, during a Tuesday appearance on the Law&Crime Network addressed various statements made by the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) about the shooting of Jefferson and controversial developments in the prosecution of former FWPD officer Aaron Dean.

Host Aaron Keller started off by asking Merritt about promises of substantial reform coming soon to the FWPD.

“The chief [of police] publicly prayed at a news conference today for the family of Atatiana Jefferson and is promising to move his department to what he called ‘better than best practices,'” Keller said. “What are your reactions to his words today?”

Merritt responded that it’s “hard to react to words.”

“This is a department that has demonstrated a propensity towards violence,” he said. “It’s good start with words, but unless they’re followed up with serious, severe and quick action then, they’re just hollow promises.”

The host then addressed a recent decision by FWPD to release “body camera images showing what presumably was the victim’s gun.”

“Police singled that out and highlighted it when they released that recording,” Keller noted. “Was that, in your opinion, necessary?”

“It wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t a strategical error,” Merritt insisted. “It was intentional. And we saw when they released the police warrant now, for the arrest of this officer, that they filled in a claim that this officer–that he was confronted with a gun poking out of the window or pointing out the window. We hadn’t heard that before.”

“Obviously that’s not in the recording,” the attorney continued. “And there’s no evidence to support that seeing as the window was sealed and the curtains were drawn. The only that could be used to support that was an alleged statement by an 8-year-old witness who was traumatized by the event.”

Keller followed up by noting that the arrest warrant for Dean claims Jefferson “took her handgun from her purse,” that “Jefferson raised her handgun, [and] pointed it toward the window.”

“If that’s true, does that in any way make the officer’s actions reasonable?” the host asked.

Merritt rubbished the FWPD’s characterization and answered in the negative.

“No, not at all,” he said, “That’s not necessarily what the 8-year-old child said. That’s what law enforcement said the 8-year-old child said. However, even if that were the case, when you’re prowling about someone’s property at 2:30 in the morning, it is natural–if they have a firearm present–for them to recover that firearm and to have a look at what happened. That wouldn’t justify shooting in that situation. And so it still would be an unlawful use of force because they failed to announce themselves as policy dictates.”

“My real concern here, however, is that the law enforcement officers are trained. When they see a firearm, they must shout ‘Gun! Gun! Gun!’ especially when you have a partner present because you want to protect them from the potential of firing–of rounds being shot at them,” Merritt concluded. “You never heard anyone shout ‘Gun!’ because, from all evidence besides the alleged testimony of this 8-year-old, there was no gun involved in this incident until after they went into the home.”

[image via screengrab/Law&Crime Network]

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