Things That Matter

The Police Officer Who Shot Atatiana Jefferson In Her Own Home Will Be Put On Trial For Murder

Of the numerous ways we lost friends, neighbors and members of the community this past year, the most frustratingly avoidable one was through police brutality. Unfortunately, the statistics for police brutality in the United States — specifically against Black and brown citizens — is staggering. According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, police killed 1,147 people in 2017. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population. If you’re Black, you are 3 times more likely to be killed by the police than a white person. What’s even more unjust, of all these crimes and murders, those involving police officers usually don’t receive punishment. For example, in 2015, 99% of the cases involving defendants who were police officers saw no convictions. 

Despite these appalling statistics, the family of Atatiana Jefferson beat the odds and got one step closer to the justice they seek for her death this week when it was announced that former officer Aaron Dean was indicted for the crime of her murder. 

On December 20th, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office in Fort Worth confirmed that a Texas Grand Jury voted to indict the 35 year-old former officer for the October shooting death of Jefferson, a 28-year-old pre-med graduate student. 

In the early morning hours of October 12, Jefferson was babysitting her 8 year-old nephew at her mother’s home. The two were playing video games together when the harmless family fun turned deadly. The pair heard something outside the house so Jefferson grabbed her licensed handgun and aimed it out the window. Almost instantly, the young grad student was shot and killed by Dean who — along with another officer — had entered the home.

The two cops were responding to a welfare check Jefferson’s neighbor had requested because they noticed the home’s front door was slightly open. According to the body-cam footage that was released after the incident, Dean did not identify himself as a police officer before discharging his weapon. Instead, the former officer simply stated the commands, “Put your hands up — show me your hands,” before a single shot is fired seconds later.

The decision to seek a grand jury indictment came a week after Jefferson’s death.

Public outcry demanded that the Tarrant County prosecutors take the case seriously. In a statement to the press, prosecutors revealed they had enough evidence to ask for this indictment, and intended to “prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.” Less than two days after the incident that resulted in Jefferson’s death, Dean had submitted his resignation to the force. Within hours of resignation, he was booked at Tarrant County Corrections Center for the murder to Jefferson and was later released on a $200,000 bond.

Police Chief Ed Kraus expressed frustration and anger at the former officer, promising, “Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations for several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct.”

Still, this is a rare case. Murder charges don’t often stick to police officers so Jefferson’s family and people who support justice for her life are taking it step by step. 

One of the attorney’s for the Jefferson Family, Lee Merritt took to Twitter to share the news of Dean’s substantial indictment. Still, this is a far step away from a conviction and even further from a sentencing. With all these steps still ahead for the Jefferson Family, the justice process is sure to be exhausting. Still, as Merritt tweeted, they must “keep pushing” until they get to the end and remain cautiously optimistic that the fairness of the law will prevail for Atatiana. 

The outrage that helped this case get this far was sparked by another act of police injustice in Texas. 

In 2018, Botham Jean was killed in his own home by neighbor police Officer Amber Guyger. She claimed that she thought Jean was an intruder in her apartment but mishandling of the case by the Dallas P.D. suggested a cover up and the story made national news. Guyger eventually resigned from the force and was found guilty of first degree murder. However, the former police officer was only given 10 years for her crime. A judge also recently dismissed the civil suit that the Jean family had against the City of Dallas and the Dallas P.D. for mishandling Botham’s murder investigation. If nothing else, hopefully the anger that’s felt for these unaddressed acts of police brutality will motivate the Jefferson case and find the justice Atatiana deserves.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Years After She Was Shot By Police, Vanessa Marquez’s Wrongful Death Lawsuit Has Finally Been Settled

Things That Matter

Years After She Was Shot By Police, Vanessa Marquez’s Wrongful Death Lawsuit Has Finally Been Settled

Photo courtesy IMDb

Finally, there is a conclusion to the tragic tale of Vanessa Marquez’s death. More than two years after the “ER” actress’s fatal shooting by police officers, her mother has finally found peace.

Vanessa Marquez’s mother has finally reached a settlement in the wrongful death suit she filed against the city of South Pasadena in California.

Both Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, and South Pasadena agreed to a settlement of $450,000 “in order to save the parties the costs associated with protracted litigation.” McElfresh originally sued the city for $20 million in damages as well as to cover her daughter’s funeral expenses.

The lawsuit read, in part: “Their armed presence, coupled with the attempted removal of Ms. Marquez from her home against her will, was a militaristic, menacing, and threatening response to a frail and visibly debilitated woman who was exercising her right to remain in her home. Ms. Marquez’s death was the result of overreaction, excessive use of force, and gross mishandling of the situation.”

Marquez was known for her role as nurse Wendy Goldman in the first three seasons of “ER”. Her breakout role was as student Ana Delgado in the film, “Stand and Deliver”. She also had guest spots on hit shows like “Seinfeld” and “Melrose Place”.

The story of Marquez’s death is a tragic one. Marquez was shot to death by police officers after she pointed a BB gun at them. The officers were trying to get her psychiatric care.

On Aug. 20, 2018, police officers arrived at Marquez’s house at the request of one of her friends who was worried about her. As soon as the police arrived, Marquez began to have seizures. According to the officers present, they tried to reason with her for more than 90 minutes before they told her they were placing her on a psychiatric hold. At that point, Marquez pulled out a BB gun and pointed it at the officers.

The officers left her apartment and Marquez followed them, still pointing the replica gun at them. It was at that point that the officers fired 12 rounds at Marquez. She was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The story is yet another example of how mentally ill people are at risk of losing their lives if they come in contact with police officers at the wrong moment.

The city of South Pasadena originally cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. “In this incident, the evidence demonstrates that Carrillo and Perez actually and reasonably believed Marquez posed an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death,” the city’s District Attorney said.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Apparently Cops Are Playing Music While Being Filmed And It’s For A Very Sinister Reason

Things That Matter

Apparently Cops Are Playing Music While Being Filmed And It’s For A Very Sinister Reason

Over the past few years, cops sure have become increasingly vocal about their disdain of average citizens exercising their constitutional right to record interactions with authorities. It’s almost as if many of them feel they are above the law itself.

Now, some officers appear to be trying to evade videos of them circulating on social media through a crafty — if not exactly airtight — strategy: playing copyrighted music loudly and for long enough to be flagged by automatic censoring software on apps like Instagram.

A report has emerged of police using copyrighted music to trigger social media takedowns.

According to VICE News, a well-known LA activist went into the Beverly Hills Police Department to obtain body cam footage from a recent traffic stop. Sennett Devermont, the activist, did what he normally does during his interactions with police and live-streamed the interaction to his more than 300,000 followers on Instagram.

It all started out friendly and chill, however, things got weird when the officer started scrolling through his phone. Shortly after, Sublime’s hit from the 90s, “Santeria”, started playing and the officer stopped talking.

Sir, you’re putting on music while I’m trying to talk to you. Can you turn that off? It’s a little ridiculous,” Devermont can be heard saying, followed by a sizable pause from Sgt. Fair. “I’m just trying to see how many people are watching this. Since you didn’t answer my simple question, I tried to find it myself,” the officer finally replies from behind a Blue Lives Matter face mask, alluding to their discussion from a few moments earlier regarding how many people might be watching the livestream.

A separate encounter with the same officer plays within the same edited clip near what appears to be an active crime scene. “What — why are you playing music?” repeats Devermont, to which Sgt. Fair teasingly asks, “What? I can’t hear you.”

So is it working?

Theoretically, the strategy could make the videos subject to content flagging, or even account suspensions and bans. That said, Instagram’s content monitoring algorithms are inconsistent at best, and every upload of Devermont’s encounters remain on the social media app.

In most cases, filming on-duty police is an American right protected by the First Amendment. Law enforcement is more aware of this than most citizens, so people like Sgt. Fair and others know exactly what they are doing when they start playing music. The question is whether these are the acts of a few industrious police, or a recommended policy handed down from on high.

Take all this as a polite reminder that it is absolutely legal to film cops in situations like the ones in these videos, and you should feel free to do so if inclined. There are even apps to help you do just that, so don’t let Sublime’s “Santeria” — or any other tunes, even ones you hate — dissuade you.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com