The white police officer who fatally shot black Texas woman Atatiana Jefferson through her window wasn’t sent on a welfare check after all — but instead on a call that cops often handle as a potential burglary, according to a new report.
Police were called to Jefferson’s home early Saturday after a neighbor noticed her door was left open and grew concerned, according to initial reports.
But now, authorities are probing what former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean and his partner were told before they responded to Jefferson’s home, CNN reported.
“The information came from the neighbor to the call-takers and while it was relayed to the dispatch, it was determined to be an open structure call,” Fort Worth interim Police Chief Ed Kraus told reporters on Tuesday, according to the network.
Experts told the outlet that the “open structure” classification escalated the situation beyond a welfare check — impacting the way the officers responded. Those types of calls could refer to a burglary or another crime, according to the report.
Welfare checks often involved medical emergencies, check-ups on the elderly or hard-to-reach relatives. In those situations, cops normally knock on the door and wait for an answer.
But when responding to “open structure” or “open door” calls, officers think differently, Michael “Britt” London, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, told CNN.
“You are at a higher sensitivity to what is going on with that house,” London said. “You have to be ready for anything. You are taking more of your environment in consideration to be ready for a surprise if there’s one.”
Neighbor James Smith, 62, who made the original call to a non-emergency police number to request a check-up on Jefferson, told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram he “never mentioned” anything about a burglary.
“All they had to do was come and make sure that they were OK,” Smith told the paper.
“What they did wrong was not follow the procedure that they have in place for the type of call that I called,” he added. “I didn’t see that. I didn’t get that.”
Retired Fort Worth chief of police and police consultant Jeff Halstead told CNN that nothing in the body camera footage suggests there was a crime happening.
“They were standing literally at the front door, they could see whether the door was kicked on or not,” he told the network. “The lights were on, there was evidence that people were living there, there were toys.”
“Why they advanced to an extremely dark backyard area without at least ringing the doorbell or checking the entrance? That’s extremely concerning,” he added.
Documents released Tuesday indicate that Jefferson had picked up her gun before she was killed because she heard a noise outside.
Jefferson had been up late with her 8-year-old nephew playing video games when she heard movement outside of the house around 2:30 a.m. and grabbed the gun, according to the arrest warrant for Dean, who was charged with Jefferson’s murder Monday night.
Dean resigned earlier that day after Kraus said he would have fired him if he did not step down.