Judge halts Atatiana Jefferson's funeral amid family dispute
Her father argued he should be the one planning his daughter's funeral.
Family and friends of Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old woman fatally shot by a Fort Worth police officer in her home last week, will have to wait to pay their respects after a judge halted Saturday’s scheduled funeral.
At the request of the victim’s father, Marquis Jefferson, Dallas County Probate Court Judge Brenda Hull Thompson issued the temporary restraining order Friday to postpone the funeral. The father claimed he had no control over his daughter’s funeral and burial arrangements, which were planned by Atatiana Jefferson’s aunt, Bonita Body.
Lee Merritt, the attorney for Brody, confirmed Saturday the funeral had been postponed. He lamented the family having to deal with this family dispute publicly.
“This family, like most families, is dealing with internal disputes," Merritt said in a statement Saturday. "Unfortunately, due to the public outcry concerning Atatiana’s murder, they are being forced to go through this tragedy publicly. Please respect their privacy as the family resolves this conflict.”
Marquis Jefferson, according to court documents, argued that, as the surviving parent and his daughter's heir, he should be the one planning her funeral. The documents also state that he was denied any involvement by the funeral home.
“Good cause exists to limit the right of Bonita Body to control the funeral and burial of Atatiana Jefferson because … Marquis A. Jefferson, as the parent, has priority of the persons that are allowed under the Code to control the decedent’s funeral and burial arrangements,” Marquis Jefferson’s temporary restraining order application states. “Applicant prays that after notice and hearing on this matter, the Court to restrain Bonita Body, Golden Gate Funeral home and others acting in concert with them to control the funeral and burial of Atatiana Jefferson.”
Body’s funeral for Atatiana Jefferson was planned for 2 p.m. Saturday before the judge postponed it. Thompson scheduled a hearing for Monday, Oct. 21, to determine if the restraining order would continue.
Atatiana Jefferson was shot to death on Oct. 12 at around 2:30 a.m. Her neighbor called the non-emergency number for a welfare check because her doors were open. Police bodycam footage showed that when officers arrived, they walked to the back of the house. That's where they saw Atatiana Jefferson, in the rear window. The officer, later identified as Aaron Dean, approached the window with his gun drawn. When he saw Atatiana Jefferson in the window, he shouted, "Put your hands up, show me your hands," but then fired one shot.
When police arrived at her home, Atatiana Jefferson was playing video games and baby-sitting her 8-year-old nephew. The boy told investigators he witnessed his aunt being shot to death as she approached the window that night.
"She took her handgun from her purse," the arrest affidavit reads. "(The nephew) said Jefferson raised her handgun, pointed toward the window."
At that point, she was shot and fell to the ground, the affidavit said.
Dean's partner, identified in the warrant as L Darch, told investigators that she didn't see Jefferson raise the gun before Dean discharged his weapon. "Officer Darch said that they went into the backyard and Officer Dean was standing between her and the house and she could only see Jefferson's face through the window when Officer Dean discharged his weapon one time," the arrest warrant affidavit reads.
The footage appears to confirm that Dean never identified himself as a police officer before opening fire. On Monday, Dean abruptly quit the police department shortly before he was going to be fired, according to Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus.
"Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations of several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy, and unprofessional conduct," Kraus said at a press conference Monday.
Just hours after he resigned, Dean was arrested and charged with the murder of Atatiana Jefferson. Dean was then released on bond from Tarrant County Jail late Monday, according to court records.
ABC News' Bill Hutchinson and Marcus Moore contributed to this report.
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