Wellness Check

Why she was shot

Why was Atatiana Jefferson shot in her own home by a police officer on a “wellness check” for an open door while playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew?  This is not understandable by any law enforcement protocol. Atatiana had led a peaceful life with a loving family. A college graduate, she had majored in biology and was working for a pharmaceutical company, living at the family home to take care of her ailing mother and dote on her sister’s son. 

It was because Officer Aaron Dean was not simply responding to a wellness call. The house was quiet and the door was open. He was out hunting.

As ABC News reported, “So far this year, there have been nine officer-involved shootings with six of them turning fatal, according to Fort Worth Police. All six of those occurred after June 1, including the shooting of Jefferson. All but two of those people involved in police shootings were either Black or Latino.

“In 2018, there were 10 police-involved shootings, half of which involved people of color and four that were fatal, police said.”

Rather than driving in front of the house as he would be expected to do on a wellness call, he and his fellow officers parked around the corner and crept up on the property, so as to not startle their game. 

What others would think was a working-class neighborhood, the officer saw something akin to a jungle, homes of Black and Brown people where he was to be wary, have his weapon drawn ready to shoot to kill. 

This is the legacy of the disease of racism that has infected this nation from slavery until now.  From the lynchings to the police killings, time and time again, we see a mental illness that has not been fully owned-up, nor thought out on how to cure.

This is something that white folks have to solve. Black people can’t do it. We’ve marched, demonstrated, sat-in, sang, begged for help and demanded justice, time and time again. It’s been hard work.

We have been prodding the country into a more civilized state of consciousness since its founding. Forcing it to live up to words of equality that were, at that time, meant only for white, landowning men and making it true for Black, Hispanic, women and all people.

We have found that there can be laws passed, but you cannot legislate goodwill or even sanity.  

The rapid response of the Fort Worth Police Chief to charge Aaron Dean was the first step. Now the department has to come under the control of an outside force in order to fire the incorrigibles and retrain the rest. Atatiana’s sister had said that any neighbor, family or community would be proud to count her as one of their own. That she left the world so early speaks to a legacy centuries-old, and her loss is another marker of the work that has to be done on this struggle to rip the threads of racism from the fabric of the nation.

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David Mark Greaves

David Mark Greaves

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