A former police officer stands trial for shooting and killing a Black woman in her mother’s home back in October 2019. The question before jurors is whether defendant Aaron Dean‘s actions constituted murder. Authorities said victim Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was at her mother’s home playing video games with her nephew when Dean, then an officer with the Fort Worth Police Department, performed a botched welfare check.
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James Smith, who was neighbors with the homeowner Yolanda Carr, told the BBC in a 2020 report that he called police to perform a welfare check after his niece and nephew saw that the lights of her home were on and the front door was open on the early morning of Oct. 12, 2019. He thought that it was strange that Carr’s lawnmower and gardening equipment were plugged in. This was not an emergency call. Smith said he expected an officer to just knock on the door and see if his neighbor was fine. He did not know that Carr was in the hospital for her heart condition. Instead, Carr’s 8-year-old grandson and daughter Atatiana were up playing video games.
As seen on Dean’s body cam footage, he checked an open door and walked along the side of the lit home. Finally, he stepped through a gate leading into what seemed to be the backyard. He pointed his gun at a window.
“Put your hands up,” he yelled. “Show me your hands.”
He opened fire, killing Jefferson, who was inside the home.
Smith was among those mourning Jefferson’s loss. He said that police overreacted.
“She intended to become a doctor,” Smith said. “But that’s not going to happen now.”
Dean quit the department two days after the shooting, though Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said he would have fired him for violating policies including use of force, de-escalation, and unprofessional conduct.
[Mugshot of Aaron Dean via Tarrant County Jail; Atatiana Jefferson’s funeral via Stewart F. House/Getty Images]
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