Ex-Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean charged with murder after shooting Atatiana Jefferson in her home

Ex-Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean charged with murder after shooting Atatiana Jefferson in her home
Ex-Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean charged with murder after shooting Atatiana Jefferson in her home  

A Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot a black woman in her home while she played video games with her 8-year-old nephew was charged with murder Monday, just hours after he resigned from the force.

Aaron Dean, who is white, was booked into Tarrant County Jail on a $200,000 bond.

Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said Dean would have been fired and is considered dishonorably discharged from the department. Kraus said the U.S. Justice Department will examine the case for possible civil rights violations.

Atatiana "Tay" Jefferson, 28, was shot through her bedroom window early Saturday by an officer responding to a call from a neighbor who was concerned because her doors were open.

Her family was relieved by Dean's arrest, said S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the Jeffersons. He added the family "needs to see this through to a vigorous prosecution and appropriate sentencing."

Earlier Monday, family members held a news conference demanding that the officer be fired and criminally charged. Ashley Carr said her sister was killed by the officer's "reckless act," and the federal government should take over the investigation.

"There is simply no justification for his actions," she said. "We demand justice for Atatiana through an independent and thorough investigation."

Jefferson's brother, Adarius Carr, said: "This man murdered someone. He should be arrested."

Authorities arrested Dean at about 6 p.m., Sgt. Chris Daniels said at a news conference on Monday night. Police are "diligently" conducting a criminal investigation of the incident, Daniels added, and are working with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office.

"We understand that this is a tough and tragic event, not only for her family but for the community," Daniels said. "We value the trust that we've had with our community. We will continue to build that trust."

Dean posted bail late Monday, CNN and the New York Times reported.

Investigators were scheduled to interview him Monday, police Lt. Brandon O'Neil said. Police also released audio of a neighbor's call to a nonemergency phone number that sent officers to the home.

Jefferson worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. The officer had served on the force for 18 months. The shooting took place less than two weeks after former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was convicted of murdering Botham Jean, a black man shot in 2018 as he ate ice cream in his home.

Merritt said police not only violated Jefferson's rights but also made "common sense" mistakes. He called release of a photo of a gun found in the bedroom "obscene," saying no connection had been made between the gun and the shooting.

Mayor Betsy Price agreed Monday that the gun found in Jefferson's home was "irrelevant."

"Atatiana was a victim ... unjustly taken from her family," Price said.

Merritt said the victim's nephew told him the duo had been up late playing "Halo" - with the doors open to enjoy the cool fall breeze - when they heard noise outside her bedroom window.

"They looked at each other and listened more intently when they heard it again," Merritt said in a social media post. "Someone was outside."

Merritt said the nephew described how his aunt went to the window to see who was there.

"Suddenly a man's voice was screaming something he couldn't make out, and then 'bang,' " Merritt said. Jefferson fell to the floor. Merritt said he didn't ask the child what he saw next because he didn't want him "to have to relive that."

"I'm hurt. I'm angry. I'm a little afraid when I'm honest," Merritt said. "I hate this happened to (the nephew). I hate it happened to Tay and her beautiful family. This has to stop now. Enough."

O'Neil said neighbor James Smith called police at 2:23 a.m. Saturday, telling the dispatcher it was "not normal" for his neighbors to have the doors open and lights on at that hour.

Two officers arrived six minutes later. They did not park in front of the house, O'Neil said. Body camera video released by police shows officers, armed with guns and flashlights, circling the home. An officer stops at a window.

The video ends with an officer shouting, "Put your hands up, show me your hands" before the sound of one gunshot. Jefferson was killed with a bullet fired through her bedroom window.

O'Neil confirmed what the video appeared to show - that the officer never identified himself as police. He also confirmed that Jefferson's nephew was in the room.

Activist Cory Hughes said the community wanted more than a suspension for the officer.

"What we are looking for is for this officer not only to be fired but we are demanding that this officer be charged as well, like the criminal that he is," Hughes said. "This life mattered. This family matters."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fort Worth shooting: Aaron Dean arrested, charged with murder


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