- Aaron Dean, charged with killing Atatiana Jefferson, has already been indicted by a grand jury.
- Dean’s ex-partner testified that Dean didn’t say Jefferson was holding a gun before he shot her.
- Jefferson’s 11-year-old nephew testified he initially thought it was ‘a dream’ when Dean shot her.
The much-anticipated trial of a white former police officer in Forth Worth, Texas, who fatally shot a Black woman in her home three years ago is getting right to the crux of the case: did the officer see a gun on her before he shot or not?
Aaron Dean is accused of murder in the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in front of her young nephew on Oct. 12, 2019. Police said Dean shot Jefferson through the back window of her home after responding to a morning non-emergency call from a neighbor about an open front door. The shooting sparked nationwide outrage.
Body camera footage of the shooting shows Dean going into Jefferson’s fenced-off backyard. Dean then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the backyard, and fired through a glass window seconds after yelling at Jefferson.
“Put your hands up, show me your hands,” Dean said, firing one shot.
Prosecutors said Jefferson took out her own gun because she heard noises outside and saw a flashlight in her backyard. Defense attorneys for Dean claim that the officers treated the incident as a potential robbery in progress which led them not to announce themselves.
The trial, which took three years to start and had been postponed multiple times, will center on whether Dean was justified in using his gun to shoot Jefferson and if race may have played a factor in the incident. At the time, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called the incident “unjustified” and said it was unacceptable.
Dean resigned from the police force and was later arrested on a murder charge and released on a $200,000 bond.
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Officer’s former partner: Dean didn’t say Jefferson was holding a gun before pulling the trigger
On Tuesday, a Fort Worth police officer who was Dean’s ex-partner testified that Dean didn’t say Jefferson was holding a gun before he pulled the trigger when they went to check on Jefferson’s house.
In uniform, officer Carol Darch said on the trial’s second day that she and Dean thought Jefferson’s home might have been burglarized and they went into the backyard with their guns drawn and looking for signs of forced entry.
During her four-hour testimony, in which she mentioned having memory problems due to two strokes she has suffered since the shooting, Darch told prosecutors she heard Dean yell as she scanned the back of the yard.
Darch said Dean fired a shot before she could fully turn around.
Asked what she saw when she turned around, Darch says she saw Dean and, over his right shoulder, what she later learned was Jefferson’s face in the window, WFAA-TV reported.
“The only thing I could see was eyes, really. I couldn’t make out if it was a male or a female,” Darch testified. “I just saw someone in the window and I saw their eyes — as big as saucers.”
Darch then told prosecutors that upon entering the house she saw Jefferson’s then 8-year-old nephew, Zion Carr. Darch said she wrapped the child in a blanket and took him to the curb.
She said neither she nor Dean gave life-saving aid to Jefferson, adding that her main concern was Jefferson’s nephew.
“As soon as I came through the door, I heard the baby and that became my sole focus,” said Darch, recalling that other officers who later arrived performed aid on Jefferson.
Darch says she never saw Jefferson’s gun on the scene and never heard Dean announce seeing a gun himself, WFAA reported. The station said Darch also testified that she often thinks about Jefferson’s nephew and his well-being before she bursts into tears.
Victim’s nephew takes the stand on the murder trial’s first day
After an ill-fated attempt by Dean’s lawyers to get the trial thrown out, Zion Carr, Jefferson’s nephew, now 11, testified on Monday.
On the stand, Zion said that he and Jefferson were playing video games and had cooked hamburgers they eventually burned. They left the screen door open to let the smoke out, Zion and prosecutors both said, according to ABC News.
Zion said his aunt heard a noise, asked him about it, and then went to get a handgun from her purse. Zion said he saw his aunt walk towards the window and later testified that he did not hear or see anything outside the window, but he saw his aunt fall to the ground and start crying.
“I was thinking, ‘Is it a dream?'” the nephew testified. “She was crying and just shaking.”
Zion said he was confused by what happened and later learned that his aunt had been killed after the police came inside.
“I was very upset,” Zion testified, according to CNN.
Jefferson believed the officers who were on her property were intruders, Tarrant County prosecutor Ashlea Deener said during opening arguments on Monday. Dean opened fire without giving Jefferson time to comply with commands and never said he saw a gun, Deener told the court.
“The evidence will support, he did not see the gun in her hands,” said Deener, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, Dean’s defense attorney Miles Brissette argued on Monday that the officers were following protocol by treating the call as a potential burglary.
Brissette said Dean and Darch saw a living room that appeared to have been “ransacked” and circled the house looking for signs of forced entry. Darch testified on Tuesday that she and Dean thought it looked like someone had “gone through the house, looking for something” on the night of the shooting. WFAA-TV reported.
“It looked like the house had been burglarized from the living room/kitchen area,” Darch said. “It looks like someone had methodically gone through that house looking for something.”
During his opening argument on Monday, Brissette told the court that evidence would show the officer’s actions were reasonable and the shooting was “a tragic accident,” the Associated Press reported.