In an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Ashley Carr, sister of Atatiana Jefferson portrays the tragic reality of police violence so many families face in America.
“We had such a good time, all of us together in a new city, that we made plans to do another ‘A-Team’ trip to New Orleans the next year. Tragically, we never made that trip,” Carr wrote, discussing the loss of her sister among her other siblings, Amber and Adarius, whom their mother Yolanda referred to as “The A-Team.”
Carr began the letter, obtained and published by Essence, reminding the incoming vice president, then-senator Harris said following the national news coverage of Atatiana’s murder: “Being Black in your own home shouldn’t be a death sentence.”
In October 2019, Atatiana was fatally shot by former Fort Worth, Texas police officer Aaron Dean. He’d failed to identify himself before attempting to enter the home where Jefferson was babysitting her nephew, playing video games. A neighbor had noticed the front door was open, and called authorities to conduct a wellness check.
Her murder sparked national outrage and ongoing demands for police accountability. The officer was indicted on murder charges, a rare occurrence following an officer-involved murder, a problem Carr highlights in the letter, with a direct ask of the incoming presidential administration:
“Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect, what happened to Atatiana was not an isolated incident ––not in Fort Worth, not in Texas, and not anywhere in this country. That’s why my family and I are calling on the Department of Justice under your leadership Mr. President-elect Joseph Biden to significantly ramp up its investigation into police misconduct, including the misconduct infecting the Fort Worth Police Department.”
Carr included direct action she hopes the new administration will take to address the systemic issues by “dig[ging] them out at the root.” Her list includes increasing federal investigations into police misconduct all over the country, strengthening internal policies between state and local police to end misconduct, expanding the unit of the Department of Justice that prosecutes police officers, and creating a centralized database of police misconduct.
“If 2020 has taught us anything it is that we cannot return to ‘norma,’ if ‘normal’ is just confining ourselves to the same limited –– or failed –– policies of the past,” she wrote.
Carr ended the letter with a reminder to the incoming president of his acknowledgment of the collective efforts and unrest over the summer, “Mr. President-elect Biden you acknowledged these efforts as a call for your administration to ‘achieve racial justice and root out systemic racism in this country.’ I hope,” she continued, “for the sake of my family, and all the families harmed by police violence in this country, you heed the call.” She added, “My nephew Zion, and all this nation’s children, deserve more than the trauma they’re inheriting.”
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