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Funeral held for woman shot and killed in her home by former Dallas cop

Fort Worth residents: "We don't feel safe"
Fort Worth residents "don't feel safe" after shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson 02:06

Hundreds of people joined family and friends in a service Thursday to celebrate the life of Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old woman who was shot to death in her mother's Dallas home by a police officer. That officer has since left the force and has been charged with her murder.

Affectionately called "Tay," friends say Jefferson's personality lit up a room, CBS Dallas/Fort Worth reported. They said she was the fun aunt and was up late with her young nephew playing video games when the fatal incident occurred earlier this month.

Jefferson's family, the Dallas/Fort Worth community and even her college community from Xavier University in New Orleans have been devastated since her death.

"I never imagined that I would be doing this right now," Jefferson's friend Khylir Patton told CBS DFW. "It was not goodbye when we hugged each other. It was 'see you at the top sis.'"

Atatiana Jefferson Lee Merritt /CBS DFW

A wake for Jefferson was held Wednesday evening and a funeral Thursday, where Dallas Mayor Betsy Price and interim Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said they would both attend, according to CBS DFW.

"I want you all to know that we have to be there for one another and we have to love each other, because we don't know if tomorrow is promised," Patton said.

At the funeral, Pastor Bryan Carter said "we are tired of talking to our children about police, tired of crying mothers, tired of funerals."

Police said officers went to Jefferson's home early on October 12 for a wellness check after her neighbor called the department's non-emergency number, saying the front door of the home had been left open. The department said an officer perceived a threat while outside the home and fired a shot, striking Jefferson inside through a window. Body camera video shows officer Aaron Dean fired less than a second after yelling for Jefferson to show her hands and that he never identified himself as law enforcement.

Family attorney Lee Merritt said Jefferson had been up late playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew, leaving the door open to let in the fall breeze, when they heard a sound outside. Merritt said the child told him his aunt wouldn't let him go to the window to investigate, instead going herself.

According to an arrest affidavit, Jefferson grabbed her handgun from her purse as she went toward the window. The boy said she had the handgun raised and pointed toward the window when she was shot.

Atatiana Jefferson shooting
A bullet hole from the police officer's shot is seen in the rear window of Atatiana Jefferson's home in Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday, October 15, 2019. AP

Merritt said Jefferson legally owned the gun and was licensed to carry. Speaking generally before the child's account was publicly available, Kraus said it would make sense for Jefferson to pick up a gun if she thought someone was prowling in her yard, acting as many homeowners in Texas might. Kraus said he regrets circulating an image of the gun found inside the home, which Merritt said was an attempt to blame the victim.

Outrage at packed Fort Worth council meeting over police shooting 04:26

The arrest warrant said Dean declined to be interviewed the day of the shooting and his lawyer said he would provide a written statement later. When Dean resigned October 14, he did not provide a written statement, according to the document.

On Twitter, Merritt called for justice for Jefferson and changes at the police department.

"We need to see this through to a vigorous prosecution and appropriate sentencing," Merritt said. "The City of Fort Worth has much work to do to reform a brutal culture of policing."

A funeral was originally planned for Saturday, but was moved because of a family disagreement.

Erin Donaghue and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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