Officer opens fire, kills woman inside her Texas home as she played video games with her nephew

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A white police officer who fatally shot a 28-year-old black woman inside her Texas home during a welfare check is set to be interviewed by investigators as questions and outrage grow over the shooting.

Fort Worth police say the shooting happened early Saturday after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to say the front door to the home was open.

In body camera video released by police, two officers are seen searching the house from the outside with flashlights before one shouts, "Put your hands up, show me your hands."

One shot - which was fired through a window of the home - struck 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The officer does not identify himself as police in the video. In a statement, police say he has been placed on administrative leave. The officer, who has been on the force since April 2018, is expected to be interviewed Monday.

A family attorney, Lee Merritt, says Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when she was killed. Jefferson graduated with a biology degree from Xavier University in New Orleans.

Police Lt. Brandon O'Neil said representatives of the police department have spoken with the woman's family and "shared our serious and heartfelt concern for this unspeakable loss."

James Smith, who called police about the open door, told reporters he was just trying to be a good neighbor.

"It makes you not want to call the police department," Smith said.

Smith said Jefferson and her nephew typically lived with an older woman, who's been in the hospital.

"I'm shaken. I'm mad. I'm upset. And I feel it's partly my fault," he said. "If I had never dialed the police department, she'd still be alive."

In an audio recording of Smith's call that was released by police, the neighbor said it was "not normal" for the house to leave its front door open for hours at that time of day.

Merritt said Jefferson's family expects "a thorough and expedient investigation."

A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after earlier demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on part of Interstate 35.

The Fort Worth Police Department said it released body camera footage soon after the shooting to provide transparency, but that any "camera footage inside the residence" could not be distributed due to state law. However, the body camera video released to media included blurred still frames showing a gun inside a bedroom at the home. It's unclear if the firearm was found near the woman, and police have not said that the officer who shot her thought she had a gun. The police statement released Saturday said only that officers who entered the residence after the shooting found a firearm. Police did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Sunday.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday called on the Justice Department to investigate.

"The killings of unarmed Black Americans have got to end," Sanders tweeted. "Atatiana Jefferson should be alive."

The shooting comes less than two weeks after a white former Dallas police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of her black neighbor inside his own apartment. Amber Guyger, 31, said during her trial that mistook Botham Jean's apartment for her own, which was one floor below Jean's. Merritt also represents Jean's family.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.