The former Texas police officer who was convicted last week in the 2019 fatal shooting of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson was sentenced to nearly 11 years and 10 months in prison on Tuesday.
Aaron Dean, a white Fort Worth officer who shot Jefferson through the window of her home while responding to a call from a neighbor about an open front door on Oct. 12, 2019, was convicted by a jury of manslaughter last week.
The jury’s decision was a rare conviction of an officer who shot and killed someone while they were also armed. Much of Dean’s trial centered around whether he knew when he shot Jefferson, a Black woman, that she had a gun.
Jefferson’s nephew Zion Carr, 8 at the time of the shooting, who was present and playing video games when she was shot, testified his aunt grabbed a gun when she heard noises outside. He said they had left the door open to air out the house after burning hamburgers. Dean’s former partner, Carol Darch, said she didn’t see Jefferson’s gun and didn’t hear Dean say he saw a gun.
Dean testified he fired in response to seeing Jefferson’s weapon: “We’re taught to meet deadly force with deadly force,” he said. “We’re not taught that we have to wait.”
Body camera footage released swiftly after the shooting showed Dean and his partner did not announce themselves as police when approaching the house. During testimony, Dean acknowledged he made errors and had done “bad police work” leading up to the shooting.
Dean faced up to 20 years in prison, and the jury also had the option of sentencing him to probation.
Jefferson’s sister Ashley Carr read a statement on behalf of herself and Amber Carr, another of Jefferson’s sisters.
“(Jefferson) was in her home, which should have been the safest place for her to be, and yet turned out to be the most dangerous,” Ashley Carr said.
She added that Zion Carr, now 11, “feels he is responsible to fill the whole role of his aunt, and he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.”
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY; The Associated Press