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Ex-Fort Worth Cop Gets Nearly 12 Years For Fatally Shooting Black Woman In Her Home
Aaron Dean, a former Fort Worth police officer, had been convicted last week of manslaughter in the on-duty shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in her home in 2019.
A former Texas police officer who was convicted in the deadly 2019 shooting of a Black woman has received a nearly 12-year prison sentence.
A Tarrant County jury sentenced former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean to 11 years, 10 months and 12 days in prison on Tuesday for the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, CNN reported. He was convicted of manslaughter charges last week.
"Would we want more time? Yes, we would. But that's what the jury decided," Jefferson's sister Ashley Carr told Dallas-Fort Worth television station KDFW in reaction to the sentence.
Jefferson’s family, who expressed relief following the court’s decision, also said the moment was tremendously bittersweet.
"This has been hard, guys," Carr added. "These three years have been hard."
The family’s quest for justice, however, isn’t over. Carr added that Jefferson’s family and their attorneys will continue to pursue federal and civil charges against Dean.
“My sister did not do anything wrong,” Carr said. “She was in her home, which should have been the safest place for her to be and yet turned out to be the most dangerous. She was murdered and, as her big sister, I live every day with the pain that I could not do my job and protect her.”
The family’s lawyer, Lee Merritt, hailed the court’s ruling as “historic,” while similarly noting that the sentence had fallen short.
"It’s a relief,” Lee Merritt, counsel for the family, also told KDFW. "It wasn’t exactly the justice we all thought Atatiana deserved, but it does represent a historic moment in Fort Worth and Tarrant County.”
Dean could have received a maximum of 20 years behind bars — or as little as probation.
Fort Worth police were dispatched to Jefferson’s home on Oct. 12, 2019, for an “open structure call" — in other words, that a door was left open. Jefferson, who was home at the time, had opened it to air out the home after her nephew, 8-year-old Zion Carr, had burned some food.
Dean, who responded to the call, approached the open doorway but body camera footage showed that neither Dean or the other responding officer identified themselves as law enforcement after arriving. Instead, Dean walked around the side of the residence, where he forced his way past a gate and into the home’s fenced backyard, per body camera footage.
Prosecutors said that Jefferson and her young nephew were playing video games in the residence when she retrieved a legal pistol because she heard suspicious activity at the rear of the property.
Dean fired at her through a window immediately after shouting at her to put her hands up. It's unclear what she was able to hear of the warning through the window.
At trial, the case largely revolved around the firearm Jefferson was purportedly holding.
Zion Carr, now 11, told the court his aunt’s gun was only ever pointed “down,” despite not recalling certain details of the shooting.
“She just held it next to her side, she just, like, she didn’t point it up, she just kept it next to her,” the boy told prosecutors, the Associated Press reported. He noted that he did observe Jefferson pull the weapon up “a little bit.”
Zion Carr testified he hadn’t seen any movement outside the home before his aunt collapsed after being shot inside her own home by someone in the yard.
“I was thinking, ‘Is it a dream?’” Carr told jurors. “She was crying and just shaking.”
Dean, who maintained his innocence throughout the trial, testified he shot Jefferson in self-defense while believing the house was the target of an active burglary. His attorneys insisted their client had caught a glimpse of Jefferson’s silhouette in the window holding the firearm, arguing he squeezed the trigger only after seeing a green laser sight aimed at him.
“The state cannot prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that this was not self-defense,” defense attorney Bob Gill said, per CNN. “It’s tragic, but is not an offense under the state of Texas.”
Prosecutors, however, were adamant there was no evidence that Dean could have seen the weapon in Jefferson’s hand prior to shooting.
“If you can’t feel safe in your own home, where can you feel safe?” Tarrant County prosecutor Ashlea Deener said in her closing arguments. “When you think about your house, you think about safety.”
Jefferson, known by loved ones as “Aunt Tay,” worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales, her family’s lawyer said. She received a degree in biology from Louisian’s Xavier University in 2014 and had only relocated to Fort Worth a few months before her death in order to be closer to family.