A former Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot a woman while she was at home playing video games over the weekend was arrested and charged with murder on Monday, the latest development in a case that has sparked national outrage and renewed demands for police accountability.
The officer, Aaron Y. Dean, who is white, resigned earlier on Monday, hours before the police chief had planned to fire him, amid growing anger and frustration in the community that the woman, Atatiana Jefferson, had become yet another black person killed by the police, this time in the safety of her own home.
Police officers were responding to a call from a concerned neighbor when Ms. Jefferson, 28, was shot through her bedroom window.
The case resulted in a rare murder charge against a police officer only hours after the interim Fort Worth police chief, Ed Kraus, announced that the department was conducting a criminal investigation into the officer’s actions and had reached out to the F.B.I. about the possibility of starting a civil rights investigation.
“I get it,” Chief Kraus said of the widespread public anger that followed the release of body camera video in the case. It showed that Ms. Jefferson had been given no warning that it was a police officer who had crept into her backyard, shined a light into her bedroom window and shouted, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” immediately before firing a single fatal shot.
“Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” the chief said.
It’s striking that Forth Worth has more progressive leadership than Rahm Emmanuel, and also could I never see Rahm Emmanuel on my TV ever again thanks.
This is where the rhetoric of police groups and their supporters comes in. Law enforcement advocates such as the National Rifle Association, police unions, conservative politicians and, of course, President Trump regularly tell us there’s a “war on cops.” They describe police work with words usually reserved for the battlefield. They fuel the mistaken belief that relatively rare incidents such as roadside ambushes are common. They equate criticism and oversight of police with violence. And they cite small increases in the number of police fatalities year to year with percentages without providing the proper context — that violence against law enforcement has dropped to the point where even small increases look large when expressed as percentages.
One could argue that some of this would be harmless if its only effect was an excess of caution — if it made police officers more careful, led to more spending on gear like bulletproof vests, or caused more cooperation with police to solve violent crimes. But deaths such as Atatiana Jefferson’s show that the effects of such demagoguery are far more pernicious. We tell officers they can use lethal force when their fear is reasonable, but we then define “reasonable” down by falsely telling them that present-day America is a war zone, that protest and criticism is violence, that danger lurks around every corner. It creates a false reality where almost any use of force seems reasonable. This is a problem for everyone, but it’s compounded for black people, given the ample evidence that people of all races tend to disproportionately fear and see criminality in blacks — especially black men.