Shooting of Atatiana Jefferson
|Date||October 12, 2019|
|Location||Fort Worth, Texas, United States|
|Filmed by||police body-worn camera|
Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, a 28-year-old woman, was shot to death in her home by a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, United States, in the early morning of October 12, 2019. Police arrived at her home after a neighbor called a non-emergency number, stating that Jefferson's front door was open. Police body camera footage showed officers walking outside the home with flashlights for a few minutes while one of them yells, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!", while discharging his weapon through a window. Police stated that they found a handgun near her body, which according to her eight-year-old nephew, she was pointing toward the window before being shot. On October 14, 2019, Officer Aaron Dean, the shooter, resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department and was arrested on a murder charge. On December 20, 2019, Dean was indicted for murder. Jefferson was black and the officer who shot her is white, prompting news outlets to compare Jefferson's shooting to the September 2018 murder of Botham Jean in nearby Dallas.
Atatiana Koquice Jefferson
|Died|| (aged 28)|
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
|Cause of death||Gunshot wound|
|Known for||Shooting victim|
Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, a 28-year-old African American woman, was a pre-medical graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana. Relatives said she worked in human resources. She lived in the house to care for her mother and nephew.
|Employer||Fort Worth Police Department (formerly)|
On October 14, 2019, Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus identified Officer Aaron Dean as the shooter. Dean was commissioned as an officer with the Fort Worth Police Department in April 2018 after completing the Fort Worth Police Academy in March, 2018. At the time of the shooting, Dean had been with the department approximately 18 months. Prior to the shooting, the only substantial entry in his Fort Worth police personnel file was about a traffic collision.
In 2004, Dean received a citation from the Arlington, Texas police for assault by contact, a class C misdemeanor, while at the University of Texas at Arlington for touching a woman’s breast in the campus library. The incident was discussed during his videotaped job interview with the Fort Worth Police. He pled no contest and paid a fine. According to the Fort Worth Police Department, a Class C misdemeanor would not prevent employment with their department as a police officer.
Dean's training records from his first year on the job note concerns from supervisors. These concerns included that he had "tunnel vision" and "needs improvement on communicating with the public and fellow officers." Dean's most recent performance evaluation was made in spring 2019, where he received high marks from a supervisor.
Just prior to 2:30 a.m on the morning of October 12, 2019, police received a "welfare call" from the neighborhood of Hillside Morningside, noting that the front door to someone's home was open. According to Jefferson's family, prior to police arriving at her home, she was playing video games in her home with her nephew.
Body camera footage
Body camera footage released by the Fort Worth Police Department shows that two officers had walked quietly around the side of the home. Officer Aaron Dean had walked into Jefferson's backyard. Seeing Jefferson in the window of her home, the officer yelled "put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and then fired a single shot through Jefferson's window.
Describing the video, the BBC wrote that Dean fired "within seconds" of seeing Jefferson. The BBC also wrote that the footage does not appear to show police identifying themselves or whether she was armed. The footage also does not show any indication if Dean could see the gun that Jefferson held, as the view through the window was obstructed by the reflection from his flashlight. The officer partnered with Dean told authorities that she could only see Jefferson's face through the window.
Jefferson's eight-year-old nephew told the authorities that while playing video games they heard noises outside the window. Jefferson took her gun from her purse and pointed it at the window, before she was shot. The nephew's account was used as the basis for the arrest warrant. Interim Chief Kraus stated that it, "makes sense that she would have a gun if she felt that she was being threatened or there was someone in the backyard." According to the Jefferson family attorney Lee Merritt, the firearm was lawfully owned and Jefferson had a concealed carry license.
Jefferson was killed by the shot and pronounced dead at 3:05 a.m at the scene. Police officers stated that they attempted to provide emergency medical care to Jefferson and were unsuccessful.
Police officials stated that the officer fired after perceiving a threat. Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus stated that Dean resigned before he could be fired for what Kraus said included violating departmental policies on use of force, de-escalation, and unprofessional conduct. The separation paperwork for Dean is to be sent to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and it would reflect that he was dishonorably discharged from the department.
Manny Ramirez, the president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said Dean has never been the subject of a police investigation. Kraus said Dean has refused to cooperate with investigators and has not allowed Kraus to question him. Dean has not given an oral or written statement to investigators. Ramirez said he and other officers with knowledge of the situation were dumbfounded as to why Dean would have fired his weapon in this situation. Ramirez also said there was no way to explain Dean’s actions.
Arrest and indictment
Based on footage from Dean's body camera which captured the shooting, a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was arrested at his attorney's office on October 14, 2019 and charged with murder. He was given a $200,000 bond, which he posted, and was released about three hours later. Kraus said that Dean had not provided a written statement or answered questions.
On October 25, 2019, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said evidence will also be presented to a grand jury for a formal indictment. Dean is the only officer to face a murder charge in Tarrant County for a shooting committed while on duty. He was indicted by a grand jury on a murder charge on December 20, 2019. In October 2020, a Tarrant County judge set a tentative date of August 2021 for Dean's trial.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called the event "tragic" and promised a "complete and thorough investigation" by police chief Ed Kraus. CBS News reported that the investigation would then be forwarded to the Law Enforcement Incident Team for the Tarrant County District Attorney.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called Jefferson's death unacceptable. The neighbor who called for the welfare check told reporters that he never intended for an aggressive law enforcement response. He stated: "No domestic violence, no arguing. Nothing that they should have been concerned with, as far as them coming with guns drawn to my neighbor's house. There wasn't any reason for a gun shot that I know of."
Jefferson's funeral was paid for by two professional athletes; former Dallas Mavericks player Harrison Barnes and Philadelphia Eagles player Malik Jackson. A GoFundMe was also created by the family lawyer on behalf of the family.
The case has been cited as a cause of loss of trust in law enforcement. During a press conference in the days following the shooting, Kraus became emotional as he compared the erosion of public trust to ants working to build an anthill, when “somebody comes with a hose and washes it away and they just have to start from scratch.”
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