“When you heard him talk about his daughter, you thought he was coping well because he always tried to have a smile,” Carter said. “But in the last three weeks, he just started wearing down day after day; he wasn’t his perky self.
“I didn’t know what a broken heart meant, but I feel like I’ve really witnessed a broken heart,” Carter added. The Jefferson family, meanwhile, must grieve another loss shortly after burying Atatiana.
Atatiana Jefferson was shot in her home by a white officer, who quickly resigned and was charged with murder in what is likely to serve as a stress test of relations between law enforcement and the black community in the region.
In the wake of his daughter’s death, Marquis Jefferson had announced plans to start a foundation in her memory. The aim of the Atatiana Tay Jefferson Foundation would be to assist African American students who are pursuing careers in the medical field. Atatiana Jefferson worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was saving money to attend medical school, her family previously told The Washington Post.
Lapacha Jefferson, 57, Marquis Jefferson’s younger brother, will take over planning for the foundation, Carter said. At Atatiana’s funeral, Carter said Jefferson recounted telling his daughter, “I want to make sure your dreams are a reality.” The foundation, Carter explained, will extend the vision both father and daughter shared while also honoring the legacy of medical providers in the Jefferson family. Carter noted that Jefferson’s mother was a nurse for 50 years at the now-shuttered Forest Avenue Hospital, the first black-owned hospital in Dallas.
In the days after his daughter’s death, Marquis Jefferson was embroiled in an unusual legal battle over her funeral. Claiming that several of his daughter’s relatives had cut him out of the funeral planning process, the elder Jefferson filed a temporary restraining order to gain control of the funeral plans and her remains. He and attorneys for his daughter’s relatives ultimately reached a confidential agreement and the funeral was rescheduled and held Oct. 24.
Carter said Marquis Jefferson and his daughter’s ailing mother, Yolanda Carr, shared a good relationship and blamed “in-laws” for the acrimonious court battle in the days after the killing.
On Oct. 12, Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, 34, shot Atatiana Jefferson through a closed window while she was inside her home and playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew. Police responded after a neighbor of the 34-year-old’s called a non-emergency line and requested a well-being check after noticing her door was ajar and the lights were on.
Jefferson’s nephew later told investigators that his aunt “heard noises coming from outside” as the two were playing video games and “took her handgun from her purse” before she was shot through the window. Body-camera footage shows Dean approach Atatiana Jefferson’s window and open fire almost before he finishes shouting for her to put her hands up.
After the shooting, Ed Kraus, interim chief of the Fort Worth Police Department, characterized Jefferson grabbing her licensed handgun as reasonable self-defense and vowed accountability for the officer who shot her.
“There is absolutely no excuse for this incident,” Kraus said at the time.
Within two days, Dean resigned from the force and was charged.