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Aaron Dean has been identified as the police officer who shot into Atatiana Jefferson’s bedroom, striking and killing her after responding to a welfare check request in the early morning on October 12. The Fort Worth Police Department released his name during a press conference on Monday, noting that he had resigned but would still be facing charges.
The Fort Worth Police Department said they were responding to a welfare request in Fort Worth, Texas around 2 a.m. on October 12 after a neighbor was concerned that they were concerned because the door was open for a long time that night, which was unusual. Police later confirmed that Jefferson’s eight-year-old nephew was in the home with her when the shooting occurred.
Here is what you need to know about Dean and what happened.
1. The Fort Worth Police Chief Said Aaron Dean Was Not Cooperative in the Investigation
Aaron York Dean was one of the officers who first responded to the welfare check, according to a call log released by the Fort Worth Police Department. He was identified as the officer who shot Jefferson.
Dean graduated from the Fort Worth Police Academy with the Class of 145. His graduation is in the video above around the 55-minute mark.
His name was released by Police Chief Ed Kraus during a press conference on Monday, October 14. Kraus said that Dean had turned in his resignation that morning before he could interview Dean. Kraus said was going to fire him anyway if he had not.
“Had the officer not resigned I would have fired him for violations of several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy, and unprofessional conduct,” Kraus said during the press conference.
Kraus said that because Dean had resigned, he no longer had the protection of state civil service law, so he could release his name publicly. On Sunday, Dean was stripped of his badge and firearm, Kraus said.
Dean had not been cooperative with the investigation, Kraus told the media.
“He resigned before his opportunity to cooperate,” Kraus said.
When asked about Dean having time to wipe his social media or if steps had been taken to preserve his social media, Kraus said that he did not have the answer to that question at this time.
2. Dean, 35, Resigned, but the Police Chief Said Records Will Show He Was Dishonorably Discharged
Facebook/Fort Worth PDAaron Dean’s police graduation
Dean was hired by the police department in August 2017 and was commissioned in April 2018. He’s 35 and, according to Facebook posts, comes from a large family with multiple siblings. It’s not yet known what career he had before he was with the police department.
Dean had one traffic accident on his record and nothing else, Kraus said. He added that he did not believe Dean had been with any other agency before joining the Fort Worth Police Department.
The Fort Worth Police said in a press conference on Monday that despite his resigning, his record and separation paperwork will reflect that he was dishonorably discharged.
3. Dean, an Arlington NativeWill Be Investigated for Criminal and Possible Civil Violations
The press conference where Dean’s name was announced is in the video above.
Aaron Dean will still face criminal charges despite resigning, Kraus said during the press conference. A preliminary case has also been presented to the FBI as a possible civil rights violation.
Kraus said he reached out to the Texas Rangers about taking over the investigation, but they have not committed because they were brought in so late.
“We take these incidents seriously,” Kraus said during the press conference.
Dean is a native of Arlington, Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a physics degree in 2011.
4. Jefferson Was Shot through Her Bedroom Winter After a Neighbor Called a Non-Emergency Number to Request a Welfare Check
Aaron Dean was responding to a call about an “open structure” (meaning an open door) that was made at 2:25 a.m. on October 12. The call was made by a neighbor to a non-emergency number because the front door was open and the neighbor was worried. You can hear the audio of the call below.
James Smith, the neighbor who made the call, told WFAA that he called because he was concerned that the lights were on and the front door was open. Atatiana Jefferson’s mother was in the hospital and she was staying at her home to care for her. In a press conference with the family, it was shared that Smith was worried because he thought maybe the mom had gotten back from the hospital and was having medical issues again.
Smith said: “nothing that they should have been concerned about as far as them coming with guns drawn to my neighbor’s house.”
The shooting happened at the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas. A map showing the approximate location of the shooting is below.
During the press conference on Monday, Kraus said officers typically park down the street for an open structure call, but the heightened response was not typical for a welfare call.
As shown on the body cam footage, the officer arrived after 2 in the morning and stood outside the open front door. The lights in the house were on inside. The video does not show the officer announcing himself at the doorway or knocking. Fort Worth Police later acknowledged in a press conference that the officer did not announce he was with the police and they are investigating why. The officer passed two open doors without making any announcements and then walked through a closed gate into the backyard, shining a light all around. He saw someone through a house window, inside the home, and yelled “Put your hands up. Show me your hands!” The officer quickly shot through the window without any hesitation.
According to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office, Jefferson was in her bedroom when she was shot.
Attorney Lee Merritt, who represented Botham Jean’s family and investigated the death of Joshua Brown, is now representing Jefferson’s family. He said on Twitter that Atatiana Jefferson was playing video games with her eight-year-old nephew in her home when the welfare call was made. She thought she heard a noise in her backyard and was shot when she went to investigate, he said.
The Fort Worth Police confirmed Sunday night that her nephew was with her when she was shot.
In a family press conference on Monday, October 14, Lee Merritt said that Zion remembers a lot of what happened and was with Jefferson when she was shot. “He never left the room,” Merritt said, adding that he wanted to be the one to look out the window but Tay didn’t let him. When she went to look out the window, she was shot and killed.
“He saw her when he fell,” Merritt said. He added that Zion learned coping mechanisms in school that he’s now encouraging his mother to use in her grief.
5. The Police Chief Said They Should Not Have Shown the Gun in the Bodycam Footage. Fort Worth PD Is Under Independent Review.
Police released the bodycam footage of the shooting. The full raw footage is embedded below, as released by the police. It’s edited and stops after the shooting occurs and shows blurry images of a gun in Jefferson’s home. It’s not unusual for people in Texas to have guns in their homes.
WARNING: This footage may be disturbing for some to see.
The Fort Worth police released the following press release about the shooting:
In their statement, the Fort Worth Police said, in part: “The individual, a black female, who resides at the residence succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased on the scene. The officer, a white male who has been with the department since April of 2018, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome [of] the critical police incident investigation.”
During Monday’s press conference, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said that displaying the gun in the bodycam footage was unnecessary.
“The images released showing the gun inside Ms. Jefferson’s home… the gun was irrelevant,” Price said. “She was in her own home caring for her 8-year-old nephew.”
Kraus agreed that in hindsight, showing the weapon in the bodycam footage video was the wrong thing to do. He said they will review why they added that to the footage and when it is and is not appropriate.
Meanwhile, an independent review will investigate the entire Fort Worth Police Department. During Monday’s press conference, Mayor Price said that a third-party panel of national experts will review the Fort Worth PD.
“I’m listening and hearing our community, my home…” she said. “Healing, renewal and trust will come. It will take a significant amount of work from all of us and it must be done day-by-day…and we won’t stop until we have justice and closure for Atatiana’s family… Mere words are not enough; we’re taking immediate action… City leadership has set in place motions to bring in a third-party panel of national experts to review this department.”
A GoFundMe has been started for Jefferson’s family. The donations are now greater than $160,000.