(DALLAS) — A jury has begun the sentencing phase Friday for former police officer Aaron Dean, one day after he was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Atatiana Jefferson.
The same jury decided to convict Dean on Thursday for manslaughter as opposed to a harsher murder charge during roughly 13 hours of deliberations. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, according to the Texas penal code. It’s punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot by Dean, a white police officer, in her Fort Worth, Texas, home on Oct. 12, 2019.
Dean and another officer responded to a nonemergency call to check on Jefferson’s home around 2:30 a.m. because a door was left open to the house.
Dean did not park near the home, knock at the door or announce police presence at any time while on the scene, according to body camera footage and Dean’s testimony.
Dean testified that he suspected a burglary was in progress due to the messiness inside the home when he peered through an open door. When Dean entered the backyard, body camera footage showed Dean looking into one of the windows of the home.
Jefferson and her young nephew Zion were playing video games when they heard a noise, according to Zion’s testimony. Zion said his aunt had left the door open because they burned hamburgers earlier in the night and were airing out the smoke.
Jefferson grabbed her gun from her purse before approaching the window, Zion testified. Police officials have said Jefferson was within her rights to protect herself.
Dean’s lawyers argued during the trial that he was confronted by deadly force when he saw Jefferson with the gun and was within his right to respond with deadly force. However, Dean admitted on the stand that his actions constituted “bad police work.”
In body camera footage, Dean can be heard shouting, “Put your hands up, show me your hands,” and firing one shot through the window, killing Jefferson. According to a forensics video expert, there was half a second between his 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.
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