Aaron Dean, the white Fort Worth, Texas, police officer who resigned before brass could fire him for the shooting death of African American pharmaceutical worker Atatiana Jefferson, was arrested and charged with murder on Monday, Oct. 14.
Dean posted the $200,000 bond and he will now await a criminal trial.
Dean and his unidentified partner were only asked to check on the well-being of the occupants in Jefferson’s house on Friday, Oct. 11.
The door was ajar and it was about 2:30 a.m. That concerned Atatiana’s neighbor, James Smith, who made sure not to sound unnecessary alarms. He called a non-emergency number.
“This was senseless. It wasn’t the reason I called,” Smith told reporters.
Dean and his partner arrived, and without identifying himself as a cop, the officer shouted a command and immediately opened fire through the window Atatiana peaked out of after she heard a commotion outside.
Atatiana is the sixth African American to die at the hands of police gunfire in Fort Worth in 2019.
It’s a statistic that activists and residents are very much aware of, one that has the city that sits about 30 miles from Dallas on edge.
“Every day you are worried about who might be the next victim,” Stephon Little, one of the many mourners to gather at Jefferson’s home, told reporters.
“You worried about what could happen if you’re pulled over, or in other circumstances. Now, you worry about sitting inside your house eating ice cream, sitting inside your house playing video games with a child,” Little stated.
Eating ice cream was an apparent reference to Botham Jean, another Fort Worth resident killed by a police officer.
Jean was shot and killed while sitting inside his home, eating ice cream, and watching television.
Only days before Jefferson’s murder, a jury convicted Officer Amber Guyger in that shooting, and she received a relatively light 10-year prison sentence.
“I cannot make sense of why [Jefferson] had to lose her life,” Forth Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus stated.
A video of the incident purportedly showed a gun inside Atatiana’s home.
Lee Merritt, the lawyer representing Jefferson’s family, said that shouldn’t matter.
Merritt was backed in his words by Kraus and the city’s mayor.
Texas’ “castle doctrine” law allows someone to use deadly force in their homes if there’s a threat.
When applied in Jefferson’s case, the law would have given her the right to carry, brandish, and even use her weapon.
“The gun is irrelevant,” Mayor Betsy Price told reporters.
“Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was the victim,” Price stated.
Kraus stated that he would also refer the case to the FBI so the agency could review federal civil rights charges.
“This is a pivotal moment in our city, and we will have a top-to-bottom review of the police department,” Price said.
“Nobody looked at this video and said there’s any doubt that this officer acted inappropriately,” Kraus noted.
“I was going to fire [Dean] even before he quit. We had already taken his badge and weapon. There were violations in his use of force, and he didn’t follow de-escalation protocols,” Kraus said.
“His conduct was unprofessional. There are times for officers to act as warriors and defenders, and there are times for them to act as public servants and humble servants.”