The former Texas police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her Fort Worth home in 2019 was convicted of manslaughter. The shooting set off national outrage after the bodycam footing showing the incident went viral on social media.
Aaron Dean was convicted by the jury in connection to the shooting. This is rare in that an officer is convicted for killing a civilian while armed at the time. This is the first conviction of a police officer for manslaughter arising from an incident while they were on duty. Dean was convicted by the jury on the manslaughter and murder charges.
The former police officer and 38-year-old man face 20 years imprisonment. According to The New York Post, “The sentencing phase is set to start Friday.”
Dean and Officer Carol Darch, his partner, responded to a 911 call regarding an open front door at Jefferson’s home on October 12, 2019. The neighbor called the non-emergency police line to report that her front door was open. Later, it was revealed that she had left her front door open because of the smoke from the burgers she’d grilled earlier.
Dean and Darch responded to the call at 2:25 a.m., Oct. 12, 2019. Smith made a welfare call, but the call was recorded under “open structure”. Dean responded by checking the house and stating that he believed it was a burglary.
Dean claimed that he was standing in the back of Jefferson’s home when he noticed a silhouette in the window. He claimed he could only see the upper arms and believed that there was movement.
Dean was visibly shaken by his testimony. He told the jury that he shouted commands to the silhouette to “put your hands up, show me your hand”
He fired one shot through Jefferson’s bedroom window. He later found the gun near her feet on the ground.
The bodycam footage clearly showed that neither officer recognized themselves when they arrived at Jefferson’s house. They searched the yard for evidence of forced entry and suspected that the house had been broken into.
After shouting for Jefferson to stop, Dean saw Jefferson through the glass and fired one shot at him with his gun. After seeing the woman point a gun at him, the officer said that he had no other option but to fire. According to The Post, he admitted many errors and repeatedly acknowledged that he had done worse police work than he should have.
The trial was focused on whether Jefferson was armed when he was shot. Dean claimed he saw the weapon. However, prosecutors said that the evidence proved something else. Darch was looking out the window with her back turned when Dean fired the shot. Darch told the jury that he didn’t mention the firearm prior to firing and that he did not talk about it after they entered the house.
Dean acknowledged that he brought up the firearm only after seeing it on the ground. He also admitted that he did not render first aid to Jefferson.
Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew Zion was present in the room at the time his aunt was killed. He claimed that she had a gun and was armed because she believed there was an intruder in her backyard. He “offered contradictory accounts” of whether she had pointed the pistol out the window.
This case attracted so much attention because Jefferson was a Black woman and the officer who had killed her was White. This case was viewed as another example of a police officer killing a black American. But there was no evidence to suggest that race played any role in this shooting. It was evident that the officer failed to identify himself before shooting Jefferson. It appears that justice was served in this instance.