Trial begins for Texas cop who shot black woman in her home


FORT WORTH, Texas — A white former police officer is set to go on trial Monday for fatally shooting a black woman through a back window of her Texas home while responding to a call about an open front door in a case that has suffered years of delay.

Fort Worth officer Aaron Dean resigned and was charged with murder two days after killing Atatiana Jefferson, 28, in October 2019. Jefferson was playing video games with his then 8-year-old nephew, who was then told authorities that his aunt pulled out a gun after hearing suspicious noises from behind the house. Body camera footage showed that Dean did not identify as a police officer.

At the time, the case was unusual for the relative speed with which, amid public outrage, the Fort Worth Police Department released the body camera video and arrested Dean. Since then, his case has been repeatedly postponed amid legal wrangling, the terminal illness of his lead attorney and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In contrast, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stood trial and was convicted of the murder of George Floyd more than a year and a half ago. Yet Floyd was killed about seven months after Jefferson, in a case that sparked global protests against racial injustice.

Dean, who pleaded not guilty, was released on $200,000 bond. Now 38, he is charged with killing Jefferson on October 12, 2019, after a neighbor called a non-emergency police line to report that the front door to Jefferson’s home was open.

The Bodycam video showed Dean approaching the door of the house where Jefferson was caring for his nephew. He then walked around the side of the house, pushed open a gate into the fenced yard and shot through the glass a split second after shouting at Jefferson, who was inside, to show him his hands.

Dean was not heard identifying himself as a police officer on the video and it is unclear whether he knew Jefferson was armed. This question and the potential testimony of another officer who was there that night will likely be key parts of the trial.

Jefferson was considering a career in medicine and moved into his mother’s house months before filming to help her as the elderly woman’s health declined.

His killing shattered the trust police had tried to build with communities of color in Fort Worth, a city of 935,000 about 50 miles west of Dallas that has long complained of racial inequality in policing. and excessive force.

The shooting drew a swift rebuke from the city’s police chief and then-Republican mayor, who at the time called the circumstances “truly unthinkable” and said Jefferson had a gun. “irrelevant” fire.

Dean’s legal team used those comments in unsuccessful attempts to move the case from Fort Worth, saying the media attention and statements from officials would bias the jury panel.

As jury selection was due to begin last week, Dean’s defense attorney, Jim Lane, died. After years of delays, District Judge George Gallagher moved forward anyway, and after days of questioning potential jurors, a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates was selected on Friday. Eight were male, six female, and none of them appeared to be black.

The opening day of Dean’s trial is expected to end early so attendees can attend Lane’s funeral.


Follow AP’s full coverage of the murder of Atatiana Jefferson:


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