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Ex-Fort Worth Officer Convicted Of Manslaughter In Shooting Death Of Atatiana Jefferson

Fort Worth, TX – The ex-Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson has been convicted of manslaughter.

Prosecutors charged 38-year-old former Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) Officer Aaron Dean with murder, which carried a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison, CNN reported.

As the jury headed into deliberations on Wednesday, they were instructed to consider the lesser included offense of manslaughter, according to the news outlet.

They returned a guilty verdict on the manslaughter charge at approximately 2 p.m. on Thursday, after approximately 13 hours of deliberation, WFAA reported.

Dean now faces up to 20 years in prison.

The sentencing phase of the trial is slated to begin on Friday.

Dean took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday, telling the jury that he fired his gun at Jefferson after he saw the barrel of a gun pointed at him.

“As I started to get that second phrase out, ‘Show me your hands,’ I saw a silhouette,” he testified, according to CNN. “I was looking right down the barrel of a gun, and when I saw the barrel of that gun pointed at me, I fired a single shot from my duty weapon.”

Dean said that he initially believed he had interrupted a robbery-in-progress.

When he saw the gun pointed at him, he fired through the window “because we’re taught to meet deadly force with deadly force,” he testified.

Dean agreed under cross-examination that many of the actions he took that night could be described as “bad police work,” CNN reported.

He said he did not announce himself as law enforcement, failed to alert his partner about seeing a gun, and that he fired his duty weapon without knowing where Jefferson’s hands were or what might be located behind her, according to CBS News.

Dean testified he had no idea of the sex or race of the person who was holding the gun, but that he remembered that the firearm he said was pointed at him was “very close,” according to the news outlet.

He said the flash from his gun blinded him briefly, and that he heard Jefferson scream and saw her fall as his eyes readjusted to the darkness, CBS News reported.

Dean said he was also befuddled when he got inside the house and realized there was an eight-year-old boy in the room, because he still believed they were responding to a home intrusion.

“I’m thinking, ‘Who brings a kid to a burglary? What is going on?” he testified.

The young boy was Jefferson’s nephew, and they had been playing video games inside the residence prior to the fatal encounter.

Prosecutors said Officer Dean headed to the call at Jefferson’s home wanting action, and they accused him of abusing his power and violating his training, WFAA reported.

In sum, they told the jury Officer Dean was the one who placed himself in danger.

“The power you have today is to hold him responsible, it’s to tell them [Atatiana’s family] that it all wasn’t in vain, it’s to say that she [Atatiana] matters. They matter, eastside matters. To say that we protect everyone,” the prosecution declared, according to WFAA.

Bob Gill, the attorney representing Dean, said that Jefferson lost her right to self-defense the moment she pointed her gun at police.

“The rights stop there,” Gill said, according to WFAA. “It’s a crime and it’s an unlawful act.”

“A tragedy doesn’t always equal a crime; it doesn’t always equal a law violation,” he added.

Dean, who resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department just days after the incident, fatally shot 28-year-old Jefferson after he responded to her home for a report of an open structure in the early morning hours of Oct. 12, 2019.

The call for service was dispatched as a potential burglary report – not as a welfare check like Jefferson’s neighbor allegedly intended, FWPD then-Interim Chief Ed Kraus said at the time.

According to court documents, Jefferson’s eight-year-old nephew told police that he and his aunt were playing video games inside their home when they suddenly “heard noises coming from outside,” KXAS reported.

Jefferson then retrieved a handgun from her purse and “pointed it toward the window,” at which point she “was shot and fell to the ground,” according to an arrest warrant.

“Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” the FWPD in a news release. “Officers entered the residence locating the individual and a firearm…”

Dean subsequently resigned from the FWPD and was charged with murder two days after the fatal shooting, ABC News reported.

The series of events leading up to the shooting began at approximately 2:25 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2019, when Fort Worth police received a call from Jefferson’s neighbor, James Smith, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported at the time.

Smith told the non-emergency dispatcher that he noticed that his neighbor’s doors were open and their lights were still on, which was unusual for that time of night.

He said that Jefferson lived at the East Allen Avenue home with her eight-year-old nephew.

But the call for service was dispatched as a potential burglary report – not as a welfare check like her neighbor intended.

As a result, the officers responded to the call differently than they would have if the call would have been dispatched as a welfare check.

Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Michael “Britt” London said that officers approach “open structure” calls more cautiously due to the wide array of scenarios that could lead to such a call being made, CNN reported.

“You are at a higher sensitivity to what is going on with that house,” London told the news outlet. “You have to be ready for anything. You are taking more of your environment in consideration to be ready for a surprise if there’s one.”

Officers generally consider the possibility of burglary when handling such calls, CNN reported.

According to court documents, Jefferson’s nephew told police that he and his aunt were playing video games inside their home when they suddenly “heard noises coming from outside,” KXAS reported.

Jefferson then retrieved a handgun from her purse and “pointed it toward the window,” at which point she “was shot and fell to the ground,” according to an arrest warrant.

Bodycam footage showed the officers as they checked on two open doors. They then made their way down a driveway to the back portion of the residence.

Dean opened a gate and came upon a darkened window to his right, the video showed.

“Put your hands up!” he suddenly ordered, with his duty weapon and flashlight pointed at the window. “Show me your hands!”

He then fired a single round, fatally wounding Jefferson, who died at the scene, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

“Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” the FWPD in a news release. “Officers entered the residence locating the individual and a firearm and began providing emergency medical care.”

Dean, who was hired by FWPD in August of 2017, was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 13, 2019.

He resigned from the force the following day, just hours before he was arrested for murder, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Had he not resigned, then-Chief Kraus said Dean would have fired the officer “for violations of several policies,” to include the FWPD’s use-of-force, de-escalation, and unprofessional conduct policies.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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