The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday will honor Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman shot and killed in her home by a white Fort Worth police officer in 2019.
Councilmember Chris Nettles will present Jefferson’s family and friends with a proclamation marking Oct. 12 as Tay Day. Tay was Jefferson’s nickname, and Oct. 12 marks two years since she was killed.
Aaron Dean, the officer who fatally shot Jefferson, is scheduled to stand trial for murder starting Nov. 16.
On Saturday, the nonprofit Atatiana Project threw the first Tay Day Parade in downtown Fort Worth. Step teams, car clubs and local activists wove through the streets, calling for justice for Jefferson.
Lee Merritt, a candidate for Texas attorney general and the lawyer representing Jefferson’s family, marched in the parade and said he wants to see Dean convicted.
“I don’t think Aaron Dean should ever be free again,” Merritt said. “Atatiana will never be reunited with her family. They have to live with that loss. As long as they live with that loss, I think he should be behind bars.
Despite the recent high-profile conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, police rarely face convictions for on-duty shootings. Between 2005 and 2020, the year Floyd was murdered, only five non-federal officers were convicted of murder after on-duty shootings without later having their convictions overturned, according to an NPR report.
Merritt acknowledges that challenge. He also points to recent successful prosecutions, like the case of Amber Guyger. The former Dallas police officer, who is white, shot and killed Botham Jean, a Black man, after she walked into his Dallas apartment in 2018. An appeals court recently upheld her conviction.
“So that indicates to me, even beyond George Floyd, [that] the tide is beginning to turn, but we need to keep that up,” Merritt said.
Jefferson’s family members said they’re looking forward to getting some closure from the upcoming trial. Jefferson’s uncle, Cedric Carr, remembers her as a wonderful, down-to-earth person with dreams of going to medical school.
“It may have been two years and a long time ago,” Carr said, “but it still feels like yesterday.”