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The Fort Worth Woman Shot By A Police Officer In Her Home Believed He Was A Prowler, Attorney Says

Atatiana Jefferson was playing video games with her nephew when they heard someone outside the window, an attorney said.

Last updated on October 14, 2019, at 10:13 a.m. ET

Posted on October 13, 2019, at 5:02 p.m. ET

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A 28-year-old black woman who was shot and killed in her home by a white Fort Worth police officer believed he was a prowler, according to an attorney who says he's representing her family.

Atatiana Jefferson was killed around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday after officers responded to a non-emergency call. The caller had asked for someone to check on the safety of the residents after a neighbor spotted the door open.

Jefferson was playing video games with her young nephew at the time, and they heard what they thought was a prowler near their window, according to attorney Lee Merritt. Police body camera footage shows police walking around the property in the dark. One officer then apparently saw a person through the window and fired one gunshot, killing Jefferson, police said.

The video shows the officer yelling, "Put your hands up, show me your hands," then firing. The entire exchange lasted less than four seconds. The officer does not identify himself as a police officer in the video.

Police confirmed that an 8-year-old boy was in the house at the time, and they also found a gun inside the home. It wasn't immediately revealed where the gun was at the time police arrived.

Texas is an open-carry state, and Merritt questioned the speed with which police turned to deadly fire.

“You didn’t hear the officer say, 'Gun, gun, gun',” the attorney told NBC DFW. “He didn’t have time to perceive a threat. That’s murder.”

Merritt also called for justice for Jefferson, who he said worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales after graduating from Xavier University. He did not immediately return a BuzzFeed News request for comment.

"She was the auntie that stayed up on Friday night playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew,” he wrote in a Facebook post describing her devotion to her family. "There was no reason for her to be murdered. None. We must have justice."

Family members were devastated by Jefferson's death and said they were looking for answers.

“It’s another one of those situations where the people that are supposed to protect us are actually not here to protect us,” Jefferson’s sister Amber Carr told NBC DWF on Saturday.

Merritt described Jefferson as “very close to her family” and wrote that she was taking care of the house because her mother had recently gotten very sick.

Police arrived at the house after Jefferson's neighbor, James Smith, used a non-emergency police line to request for someone to check on her residence after becoming concerned that both the front doors were open with the lights on.

"The front doors have open since 10:00 and I haven’t seen anybody moving around," Smith told the dispatcher, according to audio of the call released by the police department. "It's not normal for them to have both doors open at this time."

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Smith later told a reporter that he partly blamed himself for Jefferson's death.

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

@KyevTatum He said: “If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with? Do you just ignore crime or ignore something that’s not right?"

Jefferson's aunt Venitta Body said the family could not understand why Jefferson had been killed, she told reporters.

"From the moment we got the call, it’s been more inconceivable and more confusing. And there has nothing been done in order to take away that confusion,” she said.

Fort Worth police spoke briefly about the ongoing investigation Sunday evening and offered condolences to Jefferson's family.

"The members of the Fort Worth Police Department share your very real and valid concerns, as do the members of the city and people across the country," Lt. Brandon O'Neil said.

A candlelight vigil was also planned for Sunday.

Jefferson's sister described the grief the family is feeling in addition to needing accountability.

"You want to see justice," Carr said on Saturday, "but justice don’t bring my sister back."

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