UPDATED: 4:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 15
A jury found former Fort-Worth officer Aaron Dean guilty of manslaughter over three years after he killed Atatiana Jefferson. As reported by ABC News, manslaughter is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Dean shot Atatiana through a window as she played video games with her young nephew. He and another officer responded to a non-emergency call and never announced themselves before Dean shot Atatiana. The jury didn’t buy Dean’s attempt to argue self-defense despite the fact that he peered through the window and fired without identifying himself or a warning. Officials previously acknowledged that Atatiana was well within her rights to be armed inside her own home.
“Dean resigned from the police department before his arrest,” noted ABC news. “Fort Worth Chief of Police Ed Kraus has said Dean was about to be fired for allegedly violating multiple department policies.”
ORIGINAL: 12:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 12
The murder trial is ongoing for Aaron Dean, the ex-cop who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson.
Watch the trial here:
On Monday, defense attorneys for Dean began to present their case. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dean’s attorneys are trying to prove self-defense, claiming that the former officer saw Jefferson point a gun at him before shooting her through the window of her home.
The former partner of Aaron Dean testified on last week that she never heard him mention a gun before he took Atatiana Jefferson‘s life.
While prosecutors questioned Officer Carol Darch during her testimony, she told the court that Aaron Dean never said the word “gun” or that he saw anyone with a firearm he shot her. She also said he never mentioned a firearm after they went in and searched Jefferson’s home.
According to NBC News, Darch said as they approached the house Dean took the lead. The two officers moved toward Jefferson’s backyard and never announced themselves. Darch also said she thought they might be at the scene of a burglary.
Court documents show that the two officers were on the scene after a neighbor noticed Jefferson’s door had been left open. Out of fear for her and her nephew’s safety, the neighbor called a nonemergency police line.
Darch also testified that she never saw Jefferson’s gun, but did see her face through the window.
She was visibly upset about Jefferson’s nephew Zion, whom she found crying in the room where his aunt had been killed.
“I heard the baby and that became my sole focus,” she said.
Zion, who is now 11, testified last week that him and his aunt had left the screenshot open because they had burned hamburgers they were planning on eating for dinner. He also said that Jefferson pulled out her gun, but kept it at her side because she began to hear noises coming from her backyard. They both were unaware that the two officers were on the property.
Also during last week’s testimony, James Smith, the neighbor who called the police, told the court that he got a 2 a.m. call from family expressing concern for the Jefferson residence because they had seen both the front door and side door open at the house. He also said that he called the nonemergency line instead of 911 because he wasn’t sure if it was a true emergency.
Attorneys for Aaron stated their client acted reasonably because he believed a burglary might have been in process.
In October 2019, criminal charges came nearly three full days after then-Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean shot through Atatiana Jefferson‘s window and killed her.
According to the AP, Jefferson was playing video games with her then-8-year-old nephew, when she heard suspicious noises coming from behind the house. Jefferson pulled out a gun just in case she needed to protect her nephew. She was then shot by Dean. Body-camera footage determined Dean never identified himself as a police officer.
Atatiana Jefferson was reportedly shot within four seconds of officer Dean arriving.
The neighbor who called the non-emergency police number in Fort Worth said he only reached out to the police because he found it curious that her lights were on and her door was open at such a late hour. James Smith said he was concerned because he said he knew Jefferson’s young nephew was there with her. But now, Smith said he regretted contacting law enforcement about Jefferson, who he called his friend.
In a subsequent press release announcing the shooting, Fort Worth police claimed the officer was “Perceiving a threat” at the time. The press release also said that officers saw “a firearm” when they entered Jefferson’s home and found her. The Fort Worth Police Department then reportedly released an image of that firearm, even though there was no claim of that gun being used or even wielded during the one-sided encounter. Texas is a state with laws that permit citizens to openly carry guns.
Police Chief Ed Kraus said during the press conference that Dean “resigned before his opportunity to cooperate.” Kraus said he planned to fire Dean before finding out he quit.
Bringing Aaron Dean’s case to trial has been a slow, laboring process. After he was arrested, his case has been postponed numerous times due to the terminal illness of his attorney and the COVID-19 pandemic. Dean’s lead defense attorney, Jim Lane, died last week just as jury selection was set to begin.
Dean pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.
Hopefully, this trial will bring the family of Atatiana Jefferson some closure as well as some justice.
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