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Zion Carr: Boy Who Witnessed Cop Kill His Aunt Awarded $3.5M Settlement

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Fort Worth City Council approved a $3.5 million settlement with the family of Atatiana Jefferson Tuesday. Jefferson was shot and killed in 2019 by former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean.

The City Council unanimously approved a settlement with Amber Carr, or a duly appointed representative, on behalf of Jefferson’s nephew Zion Carr — who was present at the time of the shooting. City Council approved the settlement on Nov. 28, which would have been Jefferson’s 33rd birthday.

The settlement still must be approved by Senior District Judge Terry Means, who is presiding over the case. Both parties to the lawsuit have to file their agreement to dismiss, along with supporting documents, by Dec. 14. The court appointed a guardian to represent the interests of Carr.

The settlement will provide Zion Carr, 11, with attorney’s fees; a base amount in trust to provide for his living expenses through age 18; a college savings plan to pay for tuition and living expenses from age 18 to 25; and annual and monthly payments through age 40.

The settlement is the largest in the city’s history. The total amount paid to Carr could gain interest and result in an actual payment amount valued at $6 million, according to deputy city attorney Laetitia Coleman Brown.

James Smith, the neighbor who called the Fort Worth police nonemergency line on the morning of Oct. 12, 2019 — after observing an open front door at Jefferson’s home — spoke to City Council ahead of Tuesday’s vote. Dean was dispatched there for a welfare check in response to Smith’s call and shot Jefferson.

James Smith wears a button in honor of his late neighbor Atatiana Jefferson, as Fort Worth City Council voted to approve a $3.5 million settlement on behalf of Jefferson’s nephew, Zion Carr. (Rachel Behrndt | Fort Worth Report) 

Smith said the settlement includes provisions similar to wishes expressed to him by Zion Carr’s late mother, Amber Carr, who died in January.

“Zion lost a grandmother, an aunt and a mother — his backbone,” Smith said. “There are people that say this isn’t enough. It might not be enough … I’m for it and Amber would be for it.”

A jury convicted Dean of manslaughter in December 2022, and he was later sentenced to nearly 12 years in prison. Dean’s attorneys appealed the sentence and requested a new trial in August. Oral arguments for that appeal will start Dec. 5.

“While it’s positive to witness the city taking responsibility, our primary focus is to ensure that Zion can enjoy a normal childhood and witness his growth,” Ashley Carr, Jefferson’s sister, previously said in a statement to the Report.

“This council was faced with numerous dark clouds hanging over us as we (were elected) that we had to get done for our community and our constituents,” said council member Chris Nettles, who represents the Morningside neighborhood where Jefferson was killed. “This, by far, was one of the biggest hurdles that we had to go through.”

The family wanted to ensure that Carr was incentivized to attend college by having payments paid out to him over a longer period of time, Coleman Brown said.

“It does feel short, right? It’s not enough, but it is the right gesture on behalf of the city of Fort Worth,” Mayor Mattie Parker said.

Smith has been speaking at City Council meetings for four years, advocating for justice for Jefferson’s family. This particular settlement was aimed at ensuring Zion Carr was taken care of, he said, and the city must go further to provide justice for Atatiana Jefferson and her family.

Litigation with Jefferson’s estate is still ongoing.

For four years, Smith said, “I’ve put my feelings on a shelf, and they will stay on a shelf until accountability can proceed. Then I’ll have my feelings.”

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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FM Editors
Faithfully Magazine is a fresh, bold and exciting news and culture publication that covers issues, conversations and events impacting Christian communities of color.


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