A jury has found former Fort Worth, Texas police officer Aaron Dean guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of 28-year-old Black woman Atatiana Jefferson, ABC News reports.
Thursday's (December 15) verdict comes after jurors heard five days of testimony from a number of parties, including Jefferson's nephew Zion Carr, who was in the room when she was fatally shot by Dean through the window of her home in October of 2019. Carol Darch, the officer who accompanied Dean on the night of the shooting, also testified as well as the call center operator who relayed information about Jefferson's home to the officers, the deputy medical examiner of Tarrant County, and Dean himself.
Judge George Gallagher said the jury weighed both a murder charge and a lesser charge of manslaughter during its deliberations.
Jefferson's shooting unfolded on the night of October 12, 2019, when a neighbor called a non-emergency police line to report that the 28-year-old's front door was left open. Jefferson was in her home playing video games with Carr that night, and the two had left the doors open to air out smoke from hamburgers that he had burnt, the nephew testified.
Bodycam footage shows Dean and his partner Darch responded to the report but didn't identify themselves as police at the house. Darch said in her testimony that the two suspected the house might have been burglarized, so they moved quietly into the backyard with their guns.
It was in the backyard where Dean fired a single shot through the window moments after ordering Jefferson, who was inside the home, to show her hands.
In his testimony, Dean claimed he was unable to see the race or sex of the person in the window. The ex-officer said he fired the fatal shot after seeing Jefferson holding a gun "pointed directly at me."
Darch wasn't facing the window during the shooting. She said he never informed her about seeing a gun before he pulled the trigger.
Carr testified that his aunt took her gun out, believing there was an intruder in the backyard.
“If you can’t feel safe in your own home, where can you feel safe?” Tarrant County Prosecutor Ashlea Deener told jurors during closing arguments on Wednesday (December 14). “When you think about your house, you think about safety. It’s where you go to retreat, to get away from the world.”
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