A former Fort Worth police officer has been arrested and charged with the murder of Atatiana Jefferson. Aaron Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Jail for murder and was originally held on a $200,000 bond, according to the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD). He has since bonded out.
According to reports, Dean was one of two officers responding to a call for a welfare check at Jefferson’s residence after a neighbor called the non-emergency line to report that the front door to Jefferson’s home was open. According to the FWPD, the officers responded around 2:25 a.m. Bodycam video released by the department shows the two officers searching outside the home with flashlights before one shouts, “Put your hands up, show me your hands,” and firing a shot through a window.
FWPD confirmed that the officers had not parked their marked vehicles in front of Jefferson’s home, instead parking nearby and approaching the home on foot. According to Lee Merrit, attorney for Jefferson’s family, the officers passed two open doors and never announced themselves.
The incident quickly drew national outrage. On Monday, Xavier University of Louisiana, where Jefferson was an alumnus, issued a statement saying:
“We should expect safety when we call on our police, whose mission is to protect and serve. Sadly, our fathers and mothers must caution daughters and sons on their interactions with officers. Families in our communities hesitate to call on their protectors out of fear that they be killed. This should not be.
“We know that many officers live our their calling and duty to their communities. Despite this, recent events demonstrate clearly that there is an urgent need to fix a law enforcement system and philosophy that is broken for some. Our communities should not fear the police. Trust must be established to repair a system that does not serve all equally.”
Jefferson graduated Xavier University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and was considering going to medical school. Jefferson’s family stated that she had returned home to Texas to care for her ailing mother, and often helped to care for her younger nephews, one of whom was in the home when Jefferson was killed.
During a press conference Monday afternoon, FWPD police chief Edwin Kraus revealed that although Dean had resigned, Kraus had intended to fire him for violations of the department’s use of force and de-escalation policies.
“Nobody looked at that video and said there’s any doubt this officer acted inappropriately,” Kraus stated. “I get it. We’re trying to train our officers better, we’re trying to shore up our policies, trying to ensure they act and react the way citizens intend them to – that they act and react with a servant’s heart instead of a warrior’s heart.”
Kraus also said that he regrets releasing images of a firearm found inside Jefferson’s home, claiming that the department chose to release the photo to the public to show there was a weapon “involved” in the incident. “However, we’re homeowners in the state of Texas,” Kraus said. “I can’t imagine most of us, if we thought we had somebody outside our house who shouldn’t be, and we had access to a firearm – that we wouldn’t act very similarly to how she acted.” Jefferson was a licensed concealed carry permit holder.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_