A white former Texas police officer who fatally shot a Black woman through a window of her home in October 2019 was sentenced to 11 years and 10 months in prison on Tuesday.
Aaron Dean, the former officer, was found guilty of manslaughter Thursday in the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, 28, who was playing video games at home with her 8-year-old nephew. Dean was on his way to Jefferson’s house after a neighbour called a non-emergency number around 2 a.m. to report an open front door.
The jury deliberated for about 13 hours before passing judgement. Dean remained silent as the verdict was read aloud. He did not say anything before being arrested.
Ashley Carr, Jefferson’s sister, described her as “a beautiful flower just starting to bloom” in a victim impact statement she delivered after the sentence was announced.
“My sister did nothing wrong,” Carr stated. “She was at home, which should have been the safest place for her to be.”
Jurors began deliberating Monday after hearing testimony from witnesses including Jefferson’s brother and a forensic psychologist who conducted Dean’s psychological evaluation before he became a Fort Worth police officer.
Kyle Clayton, the psychologist, told jurors that he concluded Dean “was not psychologically suitable to serve as a police officer” and that an evaluation suggested Dean “had a narcissistic personality style” that would impair his judgement and “make him more likely to engage in behaviours that could put himself and others at risk.”
The defence argued that in order to become a Fort Worth police officer, Dean would have had to pass a psychological evaluation by a panel of three other psychologists who would have determined his fitness for duty.
Jefferson’s oldest brother, Adarius Carr, testified that his sister was a caring woman who moved back home to Fort Worth and cared for her nephew because the boy’s mother and grandmother were both in the hospital with heart problems.
Carr stated that Jefferson was a “flawless” student who aspired to be a doctor after being diagnosed with diabetes in her adolescence.
The jury also heard from Elizabeth Turner, who accused Dean of grabbing her and touching her breast without her consent when they were both in college. Dean was issued a citation for simple assault in the incident, pleaded no contest, and paid a fine.
Dean’s mother testified for the defence on Friday, saying her son became an officer because he wanted to help people.
“He’s intelligent. “He’s a hard worker,” Donna Dean said. “He genuinely wants to help people, and he is very conscientious about carrying out his responsibilities.”
The jury, which deliberated for about 13 hours before returning the manslaughter verdict, rejected a murder charge that could have sentenced Dean to life in prison. Dean faced up to 20 years in prison for manslaughter. Prosecutors had asked jurors to sentence him to the maximum sentence. The defence argued for probation.
During the trial, Dean’s attorney, Bob Gill, stated that Dean shot Jefferson in self-defense after seeing a gun in the window. Gill stated that Jefferson had the right to defend herself and her home “until she pointed a firearm at a Fort Worth police officer.”
Dean, who testified in his own defence, stated that he thought he was responding to a burglary and saw an armed figure in a window of Jefferson’s home.
“I was just looking down the barrel of the gun, and when I saw the barrel of that gun pointed at me, I fired a single shot from my duty weapon,” Dean testified.
Prosecutors said Jefferson acted reasonably and was within her rights to protect herself and her nephew, Zion Carr, when she heard noises outside her home in the middle of the night and grabbed her gun because she had no idea police officers were outside.
They also attempted to cast doubt on Dean’s testimony about seeing a gun before shooting Jefferson, claiming that after Dean fired, he continued to stand in front of the window and did not tell his partner when they entered the home that he had seen a weapon.
“He never said there was a gun because he didn’t know,” prosecutor R. Dale Smith said.
The shooting in 2019 sparked widespread outrage and calls for police accountability and racial justice in law enforcement.
Dean, who had resigned from the police department prior to his arrest, was charged with murder in December 2019.
Jefferson earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Xavier University in Louisiana. She returned home after college to assist her family with health issues and planned to attend medical school.