Former Cop Sentenced For Killing Atatiana Jefferson In Her Home

On Oct. 12, 2019, Atatiana Jefferson was killed in her Fort Worth, Texas home by police officer Aaron Dean.

December 21, 2022
28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson, pictured here, was fatally shot by a police officer on Oct. 12, 2019.

On Oct. 12, 2019, Atatiana Jefferson was killed in her Fort Worth, Texas home by police officer Aaron Dean.

Photo by: Atatiana Jefferson via Facebook

Atatiana Jefferson via Facebook

On Oct. 12, 2019, Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, was shot to death inside her Fort Worth, Texas, home by a white police officer.

Officer Aaron Dean, 38, arrived at Jefferson’s home with his police partner after a neighbor called a non-emergency police line to let them know that the doors were open at the house, according to CNN. That neighbor had been concerned for Jefferson’s safety and didn’t know that Jefferson had opened the doors and windows after accidentally burning food.

Jefferson and her nephew Zion, who was only eight years old at the time, were up late playing video games together. Jefferson never knew there were police officers at her home, but she and her nephew heard a noise outside.

When Dean and his police partner, Carol Darch, arrived at the home, they didn’t announce themselves as police officers. PEOPLE reported that body camera footage showed Dean and Darch walking around outside the house. Dean approached the first-floor window with a flashlight. He then raised his gun and shouted, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!"

Dean, who still had never announced himself as a police officer, fired at Jefferson. He would later say in court that he saw Jefferson pointing a gun at him, but his police partner and Jefferson’s family members who witnessed the shooting said they never saw her pointing a gun at the officer.

According to CNN, Darch testified that she did not see Jefferson holding a gun and didn’t recall Dean ever saying that Jefferson had a gun.

On Oct. 14, 2019, Dean resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department, and he was arrested. He was later indicted for murder. The case went to trial, and Dean pleaded not guilty to the murder charges against him at court on Dec. 5, 2022.

“This is not a circumstance where they’re staring at the barrel of a gun, and he had to defend himself against that person or to protect his partner. The evidence will support he did not see the gun in her hand. This is not a justification. This is not a self-defense case. This is murder,” Tarrant County prosecutor Ashlea Deener said of the case during the trial.

Adarius Carr, Jefferson’s oldest brother, testified about his sister. He described her as a caring person who was so devoted to her family that she moved back home to take care of her nephew after the boy’s mother and grandmother were hospitalized with health problems. He also remembered her as a “flawless” student. She graduated from Xavier University in Louisiana with a degree in chemistry. Ultimately, Carr said that his sister wanted to become a doctor, a dream she had after being diagnosed with diabetes when she was a preteen, and she had plans of going to medical school, according to NBC News.

Jefferson's sister Ashley Carr gave a powerful victim impact statement. Carr called her sister "a beautiful flower just starting to bloom.” She also explained, "My sister did not do anything wrong. She was in her home, which should have been the safest place for her to be."

After the jury deliberated for 13 hours, Dean was found guilty of manslaughter on Dec. 15, 2022. Prosecutors then asked for the maximum sentence for manslaughter, which was up to 20 years, while the defense argued for probation. Dean was ultimately sentenced to 11 years, 10 months, and 12 days in prison.

After the sentencing, Carr reacted to the sentencing. "Would we want more time? Yes, we would. But that's what the jury decided,” she said. "This has been hard guys. These three years have been hard."

Lee Merritt, the attorney for Jefferson’s family, said the sentence was a relief, telling KDFW, "It wasn't exactly the justice we all thought Atatiana deserved, but it does represent a historic moment in Fort Worth and Tarrant County.”

This tragedy reignites calls for racial justice in law enforcement as it is one of many cases where police officers have killed Black people in their homes in the past few years. The murder of Jefferson occurred just months before the murder of Breonna Taylor, who was also killed by a police officer during a raid of her home, a case that gained national attention in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.

Next Up

20-Year-Old Woman Fatally Shot After Vehicle Pulled Into Wrong Driveway

A Hebron, New York homeowner has been charged with second-degree murder after he allegedly shot at a car that pulled into his driveway, killing passenger Kaylin Gillis.

Brave Patrons Helped Stop The Colorado Springs Nightclub Shooting

On Nov. 19, 2022, five innocent people lost their lives at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, before patrons of the nightclub confronted and stopped the shooter.

New York Man’s Murder Charge Vacated After Deceptive Photo Lineup Sent Him To Prison For 18 Years

Sheldon Thomas was arrested after a witness chose the picture of another man with his same name.

True Crime News Roundup: Teen With ‘Infectiously Positive Aura’ Fatally Stabbed While Tubing Down Wisconsin River

Plus: Georgia college professor accused of killing incoming freshman; jury awards two parents of slain Sandy Hook first grader $4.1 million; South Carolina couple arrested for 2010 cold case murder in Kansas; four Kentucky officers federally charged in connection with Breonna Taylor’s death.

Migos Rapper Takeoff Dead After Houston Shooting

In the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2022, the 28-year-old rapper was shot and killed outside a bowling alley in Texas.

Suspect In Canada Mass Stabbing Rampage Dies In Custody

32-year-old Myles Sanderson died after experiencing “medical distress” after allegedly going on a stabbing spree that killed 10 people and injured another 18.

True Crime News Roundup: Texas Man Accused of Kidnapping and Torturing Woman He Met On Dating App

Plus: Utah family of 8 found fatally shot in murder-suicide; Probable cause affidavit released for University of Idaho murder case.

Seven Dead Bodies, Including Two Missing Teen Girls, Found On Oklahoma Property

On May 1, 2023, seven bodies were found on the property of convicted sex offender Jesse McFadden. Police believe McFadden murdered six people, including two missing teenage girls, before killing himself.

True Crime News Roundup: Woman Who Manipulated Boyfriend Into Killing Her Husband Sentenced

Plus: Principal accused of having yearslong sexual relationship with student; NYC teen mother allegedly threw newborn from fifth-floor window; dispute over dog turns deadly in Connecticut; and a judge denies a request for DNA testing in West Memphis Three case.

True Crime News Roundup: Alabama Realtor Murdered After Protection Order Against Husband Lifted

Plus: Chicago police search for person responsible for fatally shooting child; gunman who killed retired Wisconsin judge dies; college student left blind and unable to walk after fraternity hazing incident in Missouri; and Vermont yoga teacher accused of murder spotted for second time in New York City area.