A former police officer was arrested and charged with murder on Monday evening after he shot and killed a 28-year-old black woman who was playing video games with her nephew in her Fort Worth home.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Aaron Dean, 34, from Arlington, shot Atatiana Jefferson, 28, through a window without identifying himself or warning his victim. This was the sixth fatal shooting by a Fort Worth police officer in the space of just four-and-a-half-months, sparking renewed outrage and calls for police accountability.
Dean was arrested on Monday evening, hours after he resigned from the police force. He was charged with murder and detained in Tarrant County jail but was released on Monday night after posting $200,000 bail.
There was growing anger in the community on Monday after bodycam footage was released showing Dean shooting Jefferson through her bedroom window without warning.
“Nobody looked at that video and said there was any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” interim Fort Worth police chief, Ed Kraus, said during a press conference Monday.
The shooting drew comparisons to the case of Botham Jean, who was shot dead in his own apartment in Dallas by off-duty police officer Amber Guyger last year. Two weeks ago, Guyger was sentenced to 10-years in jail.
The rapid arrest and murder charge are unusual in a police shooting like this, but representatives of Jefferson’s family say this is just the first step.
“A murder charge and an arrest is a good start — it’s more than we are used to seeing,” S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer told the New York Times on Monday night. “Fort Worth has a culture that has allowed this to happen. There still needs to be a reckoning.”
At 2.23 a.m. a neighbor of Jefferson’s on the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue in Fort Worth called the police non-emergency line saying he was worried about a front and side door that had been left open in Jefferson’s house for several hours.
Inside, according to a lawyer acting on behalf of Jefferson’s family, the 28-year-old was playing Call of Duty with her 8-year-old nephew.
Dean and another officer responded to the call and bodycam footage shows the pair checking the perimeter using flashlights.
While the officers checked out the back of the house, Jefferson heard a noise, got up and went to her bedroom at the back of the house. She looked out the window to see what was happening.
Dean saw a figure through the dark window before quickly twisting his body to the left, drawing his gun and shouting through the window: “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!”
Dean then fires a single shot through the window, killing Jefferson.
Kraus said on Monday that he had planned on firing Dean. However, the former officer tendered his resignation in a one-sentence letter that read: “Effective immediately I am tendering my resignation from the Fort Worth Police Department.”
“Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations of several policies, including the use of deadly force, failure to de-escalate and unprofessional conduct,” Kraus said on Monday.
Dean, who only became a police officer in April 2018 after graduating from the police academy a month earlier, will be recorded as having a dishonorable discharge.
Kraus said Dean was not cooperating with the investigation and had not answered questions from the investigators.
Jefferson had recently moved back to Fort Worth to take care of her mother and was selling medical equipment from her home as she studied to enter medical school.
The 28-year-old was simply enjoying life in her home “where no one would have expected her life to be in harm’s way, especially not at the hands of a civil servant who had taken the oath to serve and protect," Amber Carr, Jefferson’s sister, said at a news conference Monday.
The family is calling for a federal investigation to be conducted into Fort Worth’s police department, citing the department’s recent record of officer-involved shootings. Kraus said the FBI has been briefed to investigate possible civil rights violations but had not yet indicated whether it would be investigating the case.
The news of Dean’s arrest on Monday evening was greeted with muted cheers by a small group of neighbors who remained outside Jefferson’s home, the New York Times reported.
In the wake of this shooting, anger has grown in Fort Worth’s black community, which feels targeted by the police department. Hundreds of people turned out for a vigil on Sunday night at Jefferson’s home, calling for action to be taken.
“I want to go ahead and dispel the myth that this is somehow a one-off — that this was just a bad-luck incident from an otherwise sound department,” Merritt told the Dallas News. “The Fort Worth Police Department is on pace to be one of the deadliest police departments in the United States.”
CORRECTION: An earlier headline on this article included the wrong last name for Atatiana Jefferson. It has been corrected.
Cover: Bouquets of flowers and stuffed animals are piling up outside the Fort Worth home Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, where a 28-year-old black woman was shot to death by a white police officer. Members of the community have brought tributes to the home where Atatiana Jefferson was killed early Saturday by an officer who was responding to a neighbor's report of an open door. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)