(FORT WORTH, Texas) — After just five days of testimony, the jury has begun deliberations in the murder trial of former Fort Worth, Texas, police officer Aaron Dean.
Dean is accused of fatally shooting Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, at her Fort Worth home.
Dean was responding to a call to check on Jefferson’s home on Oct. 12, 2019, around 2:30 a.m. because a door was left open to the house.
According to body camera footage and Dean’s testimony, he did not park near the home, knock at the door or announce police presence at any time while on the scene.
Dean testified that he suspected a burglary in progress due to the messiness inside the home. When Dean entered the backyard, body camera footage shows Dean looking into one of the windows of the home.
Jefferson and her now-11-year-old nephew, Zion, were playing video games when they heard a noise, according to Zion, who testified in the case. Jefferson grabbed her gun before approaching the window, Zion testified. Police officials have said Jefferson was within her rights to protect herself.
In body camera footage, Dean can be heard shouting, “Put your hands up, show me your hands,” and firing one shot through the window.
According to the prosecution, it was one minute and 17 seconds between when Dean arrived on the scene to when he fatally shot Jefferson. A forensics video expert testified that it was half a second between the start of Dean’s commands and when he shot Jefferson.
Dean resigned from the police department before his arrest. Fort Worth Chief of Police Ed Kraus has said Dean was about to be fired for allegedly violating multiple department policies.
For prosecutors, at the core of the trial were questions about whether Dean saw a gun in Jefferson’s hand, thought he was in a life or death situation or could have done something differently in the moments leading up to the shooting.
In closing statements, prosecutors focused on Jefferson’s innocence as a person defending her nephew and home.
“You can be in your own home, owning a weapon, owning a gun and you can protect yourself in your home. That’s one of the most fundamental rights. That’s the reason we all feel so safe,” said prosecutor Ashlea Deener. “Atatiana Jefferson didn’t commit any criminal acts by walking up to the window with her gun thinking someone was outside. It’s what many of us would do if we were in our house in the middle of the night in the back bedroom and we hear somebody outside.”
Defense attorney Bob Gill fought back against Deener’s claims in his closing arguments.
“She had those rights up until the moment she pointed the firearm at a Fort Worth police officer,” Gill said. “It’s a crime and it’s an unlawful act.”
Prosecutor Dale Smith responded by reminding the jury that Dean said on the stand that his actions that night were “bad police work” in a final statement to the jury. During his testimony, Dean agreed there were things he could have done differently.
Dean had testified that he did not tell his partner, officer Carol Darch, about a gun in the house until he found it inside. Darch had run into the home to help those inside, Darch and Dean testified.
“If there was a real threat inside that window, do you think he would have just sat by the window?” said Smith. “Do you think he might have pushed Darch out of the way, got back, retreated to another position? No, he’s standing there because he wasn’t sure what was on the other side where he just shot.”
“What officer would allow one of his partners to run into the house where they thought a burglary was happening without saying there’s a gun in there?” Smith continued.
Throughout the trial, the defense focused on Dean’s emotions and perception of danger.
Dean also testified on the stand in his own defense, describing the moments leading to the fatal shooting, as well as his thoughts during it.
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