Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting woman inside home

A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.

News 12 Staff

Oct 14, 2019, 8:05 PM

Updated 1,646 days ago

Share:

Texas officer charged with murder, resigns after shooting woman inside home
By JAKE BLEIBERG and JILL BLEED
Associated Press
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - A white Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed a black woman through a back window of her home while responding to a call about an open front door was charged with murder on Monday after resigning from the force.
Aaron Dean, 34, was booked into jail on a murder charge Monday afternoon. The police chief said earlier in the day that he acted without justification and would have been fired if he didn't quit.
Police bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was caring for her 8-year-old nephew early Saturday. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson to show her hands.
Dean was not heard identifying himself as police on the video, and Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said there was no sign Dean or the other officer who responded even knocked on the front door.
 
"Nobody looked at this video and said that there's any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately," Kraus said.
Earlier in the day, Jefferson's family had demanded that Dean, a member of the force for 1½ years, be fired and arrested.
"Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community," family attorney Lee Merritt said, hours before Dean was booked into jail.
Police went to Jefferson's home about 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor called a non-emergency line to report a door ajar. In a statement over the weekend, the department said officers saw someone near a window inside the home and that one of them drew his gun and fired after "perceiving a threat."
The video showed Dean shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and immediately firing.
Jefferson was staying up late, playing video games with her nephew, when she was killed, according to the family's attorney.
As for what, exactly, led Dean to open fire, the police chief said: "I cannot make sense of why she had to lose her life." The chief said Dean resigned without talking to internal affairs investigators.
The video included images of a gun inside a bedroom. Kraus said he did not know whether Jefferson was holding the weapon. But he said the mere fact she had a gun shouldn't be considered unusual in Texas.
"We're homeowners in Texas," the police chief said. "Most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house that shouldn't be and we had access to a firearm, we would be acting very similarly to how she was acting." Kraus said that, in hindsight, releasing the images of the weapon was "a bad thing to do."
Mayor Betsy Price called the gun "irrelevant."
"Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim," Price said.
Texas has had a "castle doctrine" law on the books since 2007 that gives people a stronger legal defense to use deadly force in their homes. The law was backed at the time by the National Rifle Association and is similar to "stand your ground" measures across the U.S. that say a person has no duty to retreat from an intruder.
Fort Worth is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Dallas, where another high-profile police shooting occurred last year.
In that case, white Dallas officer Amber Guyger shot and killed her black neighbor Botham Jean inside his own apartment after Guyger said she mistook his place for her own. Guyger, 31, was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison.
A large crowd gathered outside Jefferson's home Sunday night for a vigil after demonstrations briefly stopped traffic on Interstate 35. A single bullet hole was visible in the window of the single-story, freshly painted purple home, and floral tributes and stuffed animals piled up in the street.
The police chief said Dean could face state charges and that he had submitted a case to the FBI to review for possible federal civil rights charges.
Dean has not yet hired an attorney but will have one provided with financial support from the state's largest police union, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, according to Charley Wilkison, executive director.
Relations with the public have been strained after other recent Fort Worth police shootings. In June, the department released footage of officers killing a man who ignored repeated orders to drop his handgun. He was the fourth person Fort Worth police had fired upon in 10 days.
Of the nine officer-involved shootings so far this year in Fort Worth, five targeted African Americans and six resulted in death, according to department data.
Nearly two-thirds of the department's 1,100 officers are white, just over 20% are Hispanic, and about 10% are black. The city of nearly 900,000 people is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.
Calling the shooting "a pivotal moment in our city," the mayor said she was ordering a top-to-bottom review of the police force and vowed to "rebuild a sense of trust within the city and with our police department."
Jefferson was a 2014 graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and earned a bachelor's degree in biology. She was working in pharmaceutical equipment sales and was considering going to medical school, according to the family's lawyer.
___
Bleed reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.
Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Houston and Adam Kealoha Causey in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
 
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 


More from News 12
2:07
FAFSA new application delay is affecting students across Connecticut

FAFSA new application delay is affecting students across Connecticut

1:25
Cooler temperatures, rain on the way for Connecticut

Cooler temperatures, rain on the way for Connecticut

0:18
Police: Waterbury man violated his restraining order and sexually assaulted victim in their home

Police: Waterbury man violated his restraining order and sexually assaulted victim in their home

0:34
Police: Bronx man arrested in Milford for aggressively banging on someone's motel room door, brandishing gun

Police: Bronx man arrested in Milford for aggressively banging on someone's motel room door, brandishing gun

0:25
Torrington woman pleads guilty to trading fake community service letters for cash, gift cards

Torrington woman pleads guilty to trading fake community service letters for cash, gift cards

2:34
Petitions fight parking plan approved for downtown Westport

Petitions fight parking plan approved for downtown Westport

0:39
CT chief public defender under fire following accusations of bullying, insubordination

CT chief public defender under fire following accusations of bullying, insubordination

2:28
Exclusive: Lost Stamford High School class ring turns up at seminary after almost 80 years

Exclusive: Lost Stamford High School class ring turns up at seminary after almost 80 years

2:18
Group recommends traffic stop audits for every officer after State Police ticket probe

Group recommends traffic stop audits for every officer after State Police ticket probe

0:17
Stratford Police close Short Beach Monday due to unruly youths

Stratford Police close Short Beach Monday due to unruly youths

0:37
Trumbull man who rammed police cruisers, sold drugs gets 8 years in prison

Trumbull man who rammed police cruisers, sold drugs gets 8 years in prison

2:59
Bridgeport residents vow to fight back evictions after an out-of-state developer buys multiple properties on the East Side

Bridgeport residents vow to fight back evictions after an out-of-state developer buys multiple properties on the East Side

0:21
Wilton police: Man arrested for impersonating an FBI agent

Wilton police: Man arrested for impersonating an FBI agent

2:41
Fourth generation owners lean on tradition to lead Currie’s Tires to 95 years

Fourth generation owners lean on tradition to lead Currie’s Tires to 95 years

3:22
Made In Connecticut: Amodex in Bridgeport has been cleaning up for over 65 years

Made In Connecticut: Amodex in Bridgeport has been cleaning up for over 65 years

0:21
Sally's Apizza is making its way to Norwalk later this year

Sally's Apizza is making its way to Norwalk later this year

Guide: Alcohol addiction recovery support and resources

Guide: Alcohol addiction recovery support and resources

1:49
Work Zone Safety Awareness Week: CT DOT shares roadway tips and safety measures

Work Zone Safety Awareness Week: CT DOT shares roadway tips and safety measures

2:05
Gov. Lamont pushes for more solar panels on schools

Gov. Lamont pushes for more solar panels on schools