A former Texas police officer was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2019 shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, reports USA Today.
After Aaron Dean pleaded not guilty to murder, Judge George Gallagher informed the Tarrant County jury, which included no Black jurors, according to the Dallas Morning News, on Wednesday that they could also consider a charge of manslaughter.
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker issued a statement following the announcement of the verdict.
"Today’s verdict provides a measure of justice, though it does not change the fact that a tragedy occurred that should have never happened," said Parker.
"This tragedy for me has always been about Atatiana Jefferson—about her life as a daughter, sister and aunt, and her lasting legacy," she continued. "Many people in our community are hurting, and we must come together with compassion and grace. Our prayers are with the jury as they continue their service in the sentencing phase."
Over six days of testimony, the jury heard arguments on whether Dean saw Jefferson with a gun before he shot her.
Dean’s legal team said that their client fired his weapon in self-defense but the prosecution team argued there was no evidence that Jefferson was armed before he fired through a bedroom window where her nephew Zion Carr was also staying.
“We have not seen one shred of evidence that anything that Atatiana did was unlawful. In fact, we heard quite the opposite," Tarrant County prosecutor Ashlea Deener said. "Atatiana Jefferson didn’t commit any criminal acts by walking up to the window with her gun, thinking someone was outside. It’s what many of us would do. That’s what you would expect us to do to try to protect ourselves and, in this case, Zion as well."
During the testimony, 11-year-old Zion stated that when his aunt was shot, her gun was still by her side. He also testified that the front and side doors were open because they had accidentally burned hamburgers they were making for dinner and Jefferson took out the gun that she legally owned after hearing suspicious noises outside the home.
Dean, who testified on his own behalf earlier in the trial, said that while responding to the burglary call, he saw a figure in a window of Jefferson’s home.
“I thought we had a burglar, and so I stepped back, straightened up and drew my weapon and then pointed it towards the figure,” he said.
He added that he was unable to see the person’s hands and began to shout for Jefferson to put up her hands before seeing a gun.
“I’m just looking right down the barrel of the gun, and when I saw the barrel of that gun pointed at me, I fired a single shot from my duty weapon,” he explained.
Dean also admitted that he did not announce himself as a police officer when he arrived at Jefferson’s home because he believed there was an active burglary at the scene and that it was “general practice” not to announce in such situations.
In December 2019, a Texas grand jury indicted Dean on a murder charge. Before his arrest, Dean was about to be fired for allegedly violating multiple department policies according to Fort Worth Chief of Police Ed Kraus.
Jefferson, a graduate of Xavier University in Louisiana with a degree in chemistry, returned home after college to help her family with health issues. She was planning to attend medical school.
Dean’s sentencing is scheduled for Friday.
He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for the conviction.