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Ex-Police Officer Aaron Dean Sentenced to More Than 11 Years in Prison for Shooting and Killing Atatiana Jefferson in Botched Welfare Check

Aaron Dean, Atatiana Jefferson

Aaron Dean, Atatiana Jefferson

The former police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, 28, at her mother’s home during a botched welfare check must spend 11 years, 10 months, and 12 days in prison for the crime.

Jurors last week convicted Fort Worth ex-cop Aaron Dean, 36, of the lesser crime of manslaughter after acquitting him of murder.

He showed up with his partner to the home of Jefferson’s mother Yolanda Carr on the early morning of Oct. 12, 2019. A neighbor called the non-emergency line to report that doors of the residence were open past 2:00 a.m. But in truth, Jefferson was there looking after her nephew Zion Carr, then 8, and playing video games with him while mother Yolanda was in the hospital for a heart condition.

Atatiana’s sister Ashley Carr testified during the sentencing hearing that both sisters were close to Zion. Asked if Atatiana was like a second mom to him, she said yes.

“So he really had three moms,” she said.

According to prosecutors, Dean, who is white, never announced his presence when approaching the home. Neither did he knock on the doors. He only had his flashlight on. To see what was happening outside, Jefferson, who was Black, looked through a bedroom window while holding a gun. The defense maintained that Dean acted in self-defense by shooting her through that window, but the state said he did not act in self-defense. Citing FWPD protocols, they said he should never have opened fire.

“You chose not to knock on the front door,” Assistant Criminal District Attorney Dale Smith told Dean during the trial.

The prosecutor pressed him on what he saw during the fatal confrontation. Also, he never told his partner he saw a figure holding a gun.

“You never saw her hands?” the prosecutor asked. “All you saw was a gun?”

“I saw the gun,” Dean replied.

“Was it extended out?” Smith asked.

Dean said he wasn’t sure.

“You couldn’t even tell if she had the gun extended out pointed at you?” the prosecutor followed up.

“No, I couldn’t,” the defendant replied.

Dean quit the department two days after the shooting, though then-Police Chief Ed Kraus said he would have fired him for violating policies including use of force, de-escalation, and unprofessional conduct.

In making their criminal case against him, prosecutors brought up Jonathyn Priest, an other former member of law enforcement who previously worked for the Denver Police Department and who is now a forensic expert who helped develop his onetime department’s investigative protocols for police shootings. He testified that Dean’s decision-making on the night in question was almost entirely poor, noting at one point that Dean and his partner entered Jefferson’s backyard without a warrant.

By finding Dean guilty of manslaughter instead of murder, jurors determined he acted “recklessly” but not intentionally.

Prosecutors sought a 20-year prison sentence. The defense wanted him to only serve probation. They brought up his family to shine a positive light on his character.

“He’s a very good man who finds himself in a very tough situation,” an attorney said.

Prosecutors brought up witnesses, including psychologist Dr. Kyle Clayton who argued that defendant Dean was not psychologically suitable to be a cop because of a “narcissistic personality style.” They also brought up Elizabeth Turner, who said that Dean groped her in college.

“This verdict and sentence won’t bring Atatiana Jefferson back,” Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in a statement after the sentencing. “This trial was difficult for all involved, including our community. My sympathies remain with Atatiana’s family and friends and I pray they find peace. This trial wasn’t about politics and it wasn’t about race. If someone breaks the law, they have to be held accountable. The jury agreed. We thank the jury members for making sure justice was served.”

Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.

Note: We added the statement from Wilson.

[Image via Law&Crime Network, Atatiana Jefferson’s funeral via Stewart F. House/Getty Images]

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