Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean is facing a murder charge for shooting Atatiana Jefferson while she was inside her mother’s house
The Fort Worth, Texas police officer who fatally shot a 28-year-old pre-med graduate student who was babysitting her nephew at home has been indicted for murder. The former officer, Aaron Dean, was indicted by a Texas grand jury earlier today.
Dean is being charged in the murder of Atatiana Jefferson, who was caring for her 8-year-old nephew and playing video games when Dean and another officer arrived for a welfare check after a neighbor called to report the door of Jefferson’s mother’s home was ajar. Bodycam footage from the police shows the view of an officer outside the home looking into a window with a flashlight and seeing someone in the house, standing near a window. The officer told her to “Put your hands up — show me your hands” and moments later, a gunshot is heard.
Jefferson’s nephew told police that his aunt had taken a gun from her purse when she heard commotion outside and according to Dean’s arrest warrant, had it pointed at the window. Police have said, however, that Jefferson was within her rights to protect herself in that situation.
Dean was arrested days after Jefferson’s death and resigned from the department. In the days after the tragic incident, Tarrant County prosecutors said they “will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law,” citing evidence.
The Jefferson family’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt, made a statement on Twitter about the indictment. “The former @CityofFortWorth cop that shot #AtatianaJefferson to death in her home was indicted for murder by a Tarrant County Grand Jury today! Atatiana’s family is relived but remain cautious that a conviction and appropriate sentence is still a long way away. Keep pushing.”
Jefferson’s totally senseless death provoked public outcry, as it was only the latest in a recurring pattern of black people minding their own business and being killed by police. She was at home, taking care of her nephew and doing nothing to warrant police attention. Her neighbor even called the non-emergency line when he noticed the door to her mother’s house was open. Officers had no reason to shoot her and she had every reason to feel she should protect herself. This never should’ve ended in any deaths, let alone hers.
Fortunately, the Fort Worth Police Department recognizes that Dean was in the wrong. “Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations for several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy and unprofessional conduct,” Police Chief Ed Kraus told reporters. While it remains to be seen if Dean will be convicted, for now, it’s a victory that he’s being held to account for this heartbreaking tragedy.