FORT WORTH, Texas - There is a battle among supposed family members of Atatiana Jefferson.
A wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth will likely be put on pause while Jefferson's estate is sorted out.
Jefferson’s siblings want to be in charge of the Fort Worth woman's estate — but so does a Nigerian man who claims to be her biological father.
The motion filed by the city of Fort Worth seeks to halt a wrongful death lawsuit for Atatiana Jefferson until the issue is resolved of who is legally entitled to act as executor of her estate.
Attorney Lee Merritt represents Jefferson’s three siblings: Ashley, Amber and Adarius Carr.
"We essentially agree with the city in that regard," he said. "It will be difficult to proceed without the estate matter resolved."
The siblings sued former Fort Worth Officer Aaron Dean and the city in May, acting on behalf of Jefferson’s mother who died in January of last year. But a separate petitioner disputes that filing.
"There’s a second individual in Nigeria who claims to be her biological father and I haven’t seen the evidence that will help him establish that," Merritt said. "However, there are members of her family specifically, I believe an aunt, who has validated his claim."
Regarding the suit filed by Ashley, the motion states: "By this motion, Defendant City challenges the sufficiency of Plaintiff’s pleading that she is the proper party to bring the claims asserted in this action."
In October 2019, Jefferson was at her mother’s home when former Officer Dean responded for a welfare check after a neighbor noticed their front door open late at night. Jefferson grabbed her gun after hearing what seemed to be a prowler. She was killed seconds later when Dean at first yelled and then fired at her through a window.
Dean was indicted on a murder charge in December 2019. The criminal case is still pending.
"It’s unfortunate that the technical issues have taken center stage in this litigation," Merritt said. "We believe this lawsuit itself on behalf of Atatiana Jefferson is critical in terms of making her family whole, but also it’s critical for the people of Fort Worth."
While there is no specific monetary demand mentioned in Carr’s lawsuit, Merritt believes a just settlement could be historic.
"We do believe the case is worthy of a historic settlement," he said. "There were some unique pain and suffering involved and that leaves the city very, very much exposed."