lee merritt
Atatiana Jefferson's attorney: There's a culture of brutality
01:21 - Source: HLN
CNN  — 

Nine months after seeing a policeman gun down his aunt, Atatiana Jefferson, in her Fort Worth, Texas, home, 8-year-old Zion Carr is “doing,” his mother says.

He has high points and low. He still plays outside, watches TV and loves video games – the pastime he was enjoying when the officer shot his Aunt Tay through a window – but “he has moments when he’s not OK,” Amber Carr, 30, said of her son.

Zion suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, family attorney S. Lee Merritt told CNN. Like many Black children, he’s frightened by what he sees going on in the country. His family makes sure he has resources, counseling and plenty of friends to talk to, but the trauma, “it seeps into his play,” Merritt said.

As Americans face a reckoning over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others, Jefferson’s three siblings sat down for a video conference with CNN. They want to remind America that amid its demands for justice in police killings, protesters should not forget their sister.

“This literally was one of those situations where this could’ve been anybody,” Ashley Carr, 36, said.

‘We’re literally just doing normal, everyday things’

On October 12, Jefferson was babysitting Zion for Amber, who was recovering from heart surgery. She’d been released from rehabilitation two days prior. Jefferson was a caretaker. She adored family time, whether it was holidays or a game of spades.

Zion and his aunt were playing video games around 2 a.m. when two Fort Worth police officers arrived, responding to a concerned neighbor’s call about doors being open at Jefferson’s home.

Artist Nikkolas Smith sought to capture Jefferson's "final, joyful moment," he told CNN.

Jefferson, 28, heard something outside and grabbed her gun. Officer Aaron Dean did not identify himself as police. He demanded, through the window, that Jefferson show her hands before opening fire, killing her, bodycam footage shows.

“That is a blessing that I think that we have for ours is that we have a video because how would that narrative have went?” asked Ashley Carr. “What we have noticed, even with the Ahmaud Arbery case, is that that narrative is not how the video went. … If the cameras weren’t there, all of a sudden it could’ve been, ‘It was a shootout and blah blah blah,’ and we would’ve had to take their word.”

The family has struggled watching videos of recent police killings.

“Revictimization: I didn’t think how serious it was until I really started watching other people get killed,” brother Adarius Carr, the father of a 7-month-old, said. “I definitely feel the passion, the hurt, the anger rebubble up – the need to do something, the need to fix our community, the need to figure out what can I do to make this world better for my son and for kids Zion’s age. … It happens every time that I watch it, so that’s why I said sometimes I just don’t watch it. You can’t.”

Ashley Carr never finished watching the Floyd video, in which a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes. “Longest video of my life,” she said. She’s familiar with other killings, and it makes her question the rules. At least during Jim Crow, she said, it was clearer what Black people could and couldn’t do. Now, it feels nebulous, she said.

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Police release censored footage of Fort Worth shooting
02:13 - Source: CNN

“I can’t sit in my house and play video games. I can’t go out and run for a jog. I fell asleep at Wendy’s in my car, and now I’m losing my life. These are crazy things. I can’t walk from the store – Elijah McClain – and I’m telling you, he’s literally telling you he’s an introvert,” she said. “We’re literally just doing normal, everyday things and you can still be killed. That’s a crazy place to live in. That’s a scary place to live in, but that’s the reality of a Black person.”

Amber Carr did finish the Floyd video. Upon seeing the 46-year-old plead for his mama, she thought of her sister.

“I wouldn’t say I felt her or I saw her, but it made me wonder,” she paused for several seconds, tears welling in her eyes. “What were her last words? To hear them say their last words, did she cry out for her mom? Did she cry out for someone?”

‘He wasn’t even safe in the home’

Adarius Carr is already planning to have “the talk” – the Black boys’ rite where parents explain they will be treated differently for their skin – with his infant son, Thaddeus. He doesn’t know how the chat will go, but he’s locked down the theme.

“The best I can tell him is: Make it home to me,” he said. “Just make it home, son, as fast as you can. Whatever you have to do, make it home.”

It’s a sad reality Black children’s parents must prepare for these conversations before their children have reached maturity, said Amber Carr, who also has a 4-year-old, Zayden.

Zion is smart. He knows what’s happening. He knows why he’s attending protests and rallies, but he doesn’t understand the big picture, she said. He’s too young.