Fort Worth Police Officer Who Fatally Shot Atatiana Jefferson Indicted On Murder Charge

Erik Ortiz

The case against Aaron Dean, 35, led to a rare mur­der charge against a police offi­cer when he was ini­tial­ly arrest­ed just days after the October shoot­ing.

Flowers lie on the sidewalk in front of the house in Fort Worth, Texas on Oct. 14, 2019, where a white Fort Worth police officer shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, a black woman, through a back window of her home.
Flowers lie on the side­walk in front of the house in Fort Worth, Texas on Oct. 14, 2019, where a white Fort Worth police offi­cer shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, a black woman, through a back win­dow of her home.David Kent /​AP

By Erik Ortiz

A Texas grand jury on Friday indict­ed a for­mer Fort Worth police offi­cer for mur­der after fatal­ly shoot­ing a woman who had been babysit­ting her nephew at home in a case that drew pub­lic out­cry for police account­abil­i­ty.

The Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office con­firmed the indict­ment for the for­mer offi­cer, Aaron Dean, 35, in the shoot­ing death of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old pre-med grad­u­ate stu­dent.

Lee Merritt, an attor­ney for Jefferson’s fam­i­ly, tweet­ed that they are relieved with the indict­ment, but “remain cau­tious that a con­vic­tion and appro­pri­ate sen­tence is still a long way away.”

Image; Former Fort Worth officer Aaron Dean
Former Fort Worth offi­cer Aaron Dean.Tarrant County Jail

In the week after Jefferson’s death, Tarrant County pros­e­cu­tors said they had enough evi­dence to ask for the grand jury indict­ment, and said in a state­ment “we will pros­e­cute this case to the fullest extent of the law.”

The case led to a rare mur­der charge against a police offi­cer in the United States, when Dean was ini­tial­ly arrest­ed just days after the inci­dent occurred. He resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department pri­or to his arrest.

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.

Dean and anoth­er offi­cer were respond­ing to an ear­ly-morn­ing house call after a neigh­bor became con­cerned when they noticed the front door of a home, which belonged to Jefferson’s moth­er, was left ajar and request­ed a wel­fare check.

Jefferson had been babysit­ting her 8‑year-old nephew inside and play­ing video games. According to police and body cam­era footage, Dean failed to iden­ti­fy him­self before fir­ing his weapon, strik­ing Jefferson.

The body­cam video released pub­licly shows the per­spec­tive of an offi­cer out­side the home, peer­ing into a win­dow using a flash­light and spot­ting some­one inside stand­ing near a win­dow and telling her, “Put your hands up — show me your hands.” A sin­gle shot is fired sec­onds lat­er.

Jefferson’s nephew told author­i­ties that she had tak­en a hand­gun from her purse when she heard nois­es out­side and point­ed it toward the win­dow, accord­ing to an arrest war­rant. But police have said she was with­in her rights to pro­tect her­self.

Jefferson’s death came on the heels of the con­vic­tion of for­mer police offi­cer Amber Guyger in near­by Dallas. Guyger received a 10-year mur­der sen­tence in the fatal shoot­ing of unarmed accoun­tant Botham Jean last year, when she said she mis­tak­en­ly entered his apart­ment and believed he was a rob­ber.

In both cas­es, the offi­cer is white and the vic­tim was black, lead­ing to protests against police abus­es and racial pro­fil­ing.