Ex-officer was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting 28-year-old Black woman Atatiana Jefferson in her Texas home.
A former police officer in the southern US state of Texas has been sentenced to nearly 12 years in prison for fatally shooting Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman, through the rear window of her home in 2019 after entering her property unannounced.
On Tuesday, a jury sentenced 38-year-old Aaron Dean to 11 years and 10 months in prison after convicting Dean of manslaughter last Thursday. He had faced a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
”Today’s guilty verdict is one small step to delivering justice for Atatiana Jefferson and her family,” US Congressman Marc Veasey, who represents a Texas district, said in a statement following the conviction last week.
“This verdict underscores the important work that needs to be done locally and nationally to ensure a tragedy like this one does not happen again.”
Today’s sentencing of Aaron Dean is another step towards justice and accountability in the murder of Atatiana Jefferson. We must remain committed to enacting common-sense reforms that will prevent tragedies like this from continuing to happen to communities of color. https://t.co/UsxhMkizRT
— Rep. Marc Veasey (@RepVeasey) December 20, 2022
While police killings of unarmed people in the United States have drawn significant attention in recent years and spurred mass protests, the Texas trial led to a rare conviction of a police officer for killing someone who also had a gun.
Dean, a police officer in the Texas city of Fort Worth at the time of the incident, fatally shot Jefferson, 28, after a neighbour called a non-emergency police line stating that the front door to Jefferson’s home was open.
Jefferson had been playing video games with her eight-year-old nephew and had opened the door to let out smoke from cooking a hamburger.
The trial revolved around whether Dean knew that Jefferson was armed.
Jefferson had pulled a gun out of her purse and aimed towards the bedroom window after hearing noises. Dean and fellow officer Carol Darch did not identify themselves when they arrived at the home and Dean, suspecting a burglary, moved into the fenced-off back yard with his gun drawn.
Body camera footage shows him yelling at Jefferson, who is inside, to show her hands, then shooting her a split-second later.
Dean claimed that he had seen Jefferson’s weapon, but prosecutors maintained that evidence showed otherwise.
Darch’s back was to the window when Dean shot, but she testified that he never mentioned seeing a gun before he pulled the trigger and did not say anything about the weapon as they rushed in to search the house.
Dean testified that he had no choice but to shoot Jefferson because she was pointing a gun at him, but acknowledged numerous missteps and “bad police work” before the court. He also acknowledged that he had not mentioned the gun and that he never gave Jefferson first aid.
The Forth Worth Police Department, where Dean was employed, quickly released footage of the shooting and arrested Dean following an outpouring of public anger.
Fatal police shootings remain a persistent and contentious issue in the US, prompting protests and ongoing calls for serious reforms to policing.
The police killing of George Floyd in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2020 set off demonstrations around the world demanding an end to police violence and racism.
Former officer Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during the fatal incident, was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison last year after being convicted of killing the unarmed 46-year-old.
The other officers involved in Floyd’s death also have received prison sentences of varying lengths for violating Floyd’s civil rights.
The fatal shooting of Jefferson took place seven months before Floyd was killed.