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.

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People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

Things That Matter

People Have Taken To The Streets Across The Country In Breonna Taylor Protests

@KRISTENCLARKEJD / TWITTER

Cities across the U.S. are seeing a new wave of unrest following the grand jury’s finding on the Breonna Taylor case. Emotions are high as people protest against the lack of charges against the officers who were involved in Taylor’s death.

Protesters are raising their voices after the decision not to charge all of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s death.

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed on March 13 when police raided her apartment. The 26-year-old ER technician was sleeping when the police executed a “no-knock” warrant. However, police had the wrong address and Taylor’s boyfriend, believe their lives were in danger, fired at the police. Taylor was shot and killed in her apartment that night.

Major cities across the country saw major demonstrations spurred by the anger against the justice system.

A grand jury found one officer responsible for wanton endangerment after firing his weapon into neighboring apartments. There were no charges tied directly to Taylor’s death. The lack of charges has angered activists and advocates who are seeking significant police reform to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

People have become hyper-aware of the issue and are paying attention to the outcomes.

Protest signs in different crowds show that the American people are paying attention. The Black Lives Matter movement became the cause at the forefront of American mentality since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death sparked national outrage and renewed energy into fighting to stop the disproportionate violence Black men, women, and children face at the hands of police.

Some motorists have turned violent against the protesters.

Video captured in both Denver and Los Angeles show vehicles driving through crowds of protesters. In Denver, the driver claims to have acted in self-defense after protesters surrounded his car. The driver claims that he did not intend to hurt anyone but reacted when protesters shattered his windshield.

In Louisville, police arrested the only Black woman in the Kentucky state legislature for protesting.

State Rep. Attica Scott was arrested for first-degree rioting, which is a class-D felony. The Louisville Metropolitan Police Department arrested 24 people Thursday night while protesting the decision not to charge the officers. Rep. Scott was arrested with other and charged with first-degree rioting and two misdemeanors for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.

“Our call to action is to continue to make sure that the city of Louisville understands that we will not go away, that we will continue to demand the defunding of police and the dismantling of this police department because it’s corrupt from the inside out, from the bottom to the top,” Scott told NPR before the grand jury decision. “And it cannot continue to function in the way that it does.”

Taylor’s death has mobilized the nation with celebrities and politicians calling for justice.

The fight for racial justice and a systemic change to our justice and policing systems is ongoing. The people are tired of being scared and are taking a stand with their protests.

If you are out there protesting, send us your videos and photos so we can see your activism in action!

READ: Oprah Winfrey Honors Breonna Taylor With Historic O Magazine Cover

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Naomi Osaka’s Display Of Support For Black Lives Matter Was The Biggest Win At The U.S. Open… Other Than Her Big Win

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Naomi Osaka’s Display Of Support For Black Lives Matter Was The Biggest Win At The U.S. Open… Other Than Her Big Win

Al Bello / Getty

After taking home a massive victory at Saturday’s U.S. Open, tennis star Naomi Osaka cemented her status as the reigning women’s tennis champion of the year. Her victory against Belarusian tennis play Victoria Azarenka meant she took home her third Grand Slam title in just three years. But the biggest part of Osaka’s win was the powerful statement she decided to make in every match leading up to it.

The 22-year-old walked into the Arthur Ashe Stadium each day using her platform to remind the world of racial injustice.

For each of her matches, the tennis star wore masks emblazoned with the names of Black victims of police violence.

For her final match, Osaka arrived with a mask with Tamir Rice’s name. Rice was a 12-year-old boy who was murdered by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann in 2014. At the time of his murder, Rice had been carrying a replica toy gun and had been shot by Loehmann almost as soon as the officer arrived at the scene he’d been called to. Reports notes that the caller claimed that a male was pointing “a pistol” at random people but also noted that it was “probably fake.”

Osaka used her platform to also honor Black victims such as Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor was a Black woman who lost her life after being fatally shot by police in March while she was sleeping in her home. Elijah McClain was killed by police in August 2019 after being put in a chokehold. Ahmaud Arbery was killed while on a jog in February. Osaka also wore the names of Trayvon Martin and Philando Castille. At the time Martin’s death in 2012, he was just 17-years old. Castille was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in 2016.

“I feel like I’m a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness,” Osaka noted to ESPNW after her quarter-final win earlier last week. At the time, Osaka sported a mask bearing George Floyd’s name. Floyd’s murder in May, sparked protests across the country.

In seeing Osaka’s dedication to his son, Ahmaud Arbery’s father Marcus Arbery, Sr. told Osaka in a video message, “God bless you for what you’re doing.” Osaka later remarked in a tweet that after watching the video messages she “cried so much. The strength and the character both of these parents have is beyond me.”

After being asked about the intention behind the masks and what message she was intending to get a cross in a post-match interview, Osaka asked “Well, what was the message you got?… I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”

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