BY DANA BRANHAM
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS/TNS
DALLAS – Atatiana Jefferson’s death was like an earthquake, sending shockwaves — of grief, of anger, of frustration, of loss — through her family and around the world, Pastor Bryan Carter said Thursday as the 28-year-old was laid to rest.
“Why now? Why this? Why her? Why this way?” Carter asked in a eulogy he gave for Jefferson at his church, Concord Church in the Red Bird area of southern Dallas.
“Someone so young in such a prime season of her life,” he said. “This is an earth-shaking experience.”
The funeral came nearly two weeks after a Fort Worth officer killed Jefferson in her home Oct. 12. The officer, Aaron Dean, resigned and is the first Tarrant County lawman to be charged with murder.
Dozens of Jefferson’s family and friends, as well as elected officials from around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, paid their respects Thursday at the church, where Jefferson’s body lay in a sky blue casket flanked by blue and white roses.
Clergy members walked alongside Jefferson’s family in a procession, each stopping at the casket. Some relatives sobbed audibly at the sight of Jefferson’s body.
SHOOK FAMILY, COMMUNITY
Carter said the “earthquake” of Jefferson’s death not has not only shaken her family, but an entire community left exhausted in the wake of another life needlessly cut short.
“The truth of the matter is that many of us are tired,” he said. “Tired of talking to our kids about the police. Tired of seeing tearful mothers on TV. Tired of having to protest and prove that Black lives do matter. Tired of having to hope that a jury will get a conviction. Tired of hoping that the body cam will confirm what we already know.”
But there is solace, he said, referencing Psalm 46, because “the text doesn’t stop with the earthquake.”
“There will be times where what you thought was stable will be snatched away,” Carter said. “There will be times when injustice happens, and the text says this: And God is our refuge and strength.”
Each of Jefferson’s parents prepared a written tribute to their daughter, remembering their “Tay” as a loving, caring young woman who had a bright future ahead of her.
Yolanda Carr, Jefferson’s mother, was not in attendance, so the Rev. Jaime Kowlessar of City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church read her tribute.
“Like everyone in life, your path was filled with joy and pain,” Carr wrote. “However, you balanced the two with grace, faith, confidence and competence. You often said you were going to change the world, which I believe you still will.”
Carr’s health has been declining, her family has said, and has recently been hospitalized. Jefferson had moved back into her mother’s home recently to help take care of her, her siblings have said.
Jefferson’s father, Marquis Jefferson, wrote in his tribute that because of his daughter, his purpose was “clearer than ever before.” He said he would start the Atatiana “Tay” Jefferson Foundation to support aspiring Black doctors, address homelessness and ease stress in poverty-stricken communities.
“I will forever have in my mind how loving and kind you are. I will miss that shining smile and your quiet and strong focus on life — how you never gave up,” said Marquis Jefferson’s wife, reading the tribute on her husband’s behalf.
News of Jefferson’s death quickly spread around the world and sparked calls for police accountability. In a nod to how the case drew national attention, one clergy member read a letter from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters to Jefferson’s mother and father.
Waters, D-Calif., wrote that Jefferson’s death was “an outrageous injustice.”
“Something is incredibly wrong in a country where a bright young woman’s life can be taken in her own home by a police officer who swore an oath to protect and serve,” the letter read.