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Former Texas police officer Aaron Dean found guilty of manslaughter in the 2019 killing of Atatiana Jefferson

A jury has found former Texas police officer Aaron Dean guilty of manslaughter in the death of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot in her Fort Worth, Texas, home in 2019. Dean had been initially indicted on a murder charge; however on Wednesday, the judge told jurors they could consider a manslaughter verdict.

Dean responded to a call about an open front door, arriving at Jefferson’s home on Oct. 12, 2019. It was revealed that Jefferson’s nephew had been over and that the home’s door was left open to vent smoke from hamburgers he burned. A neighbor had reported the open door to a nonemergency police line, and Dean testified that he believed a burglary was in process. While looking for signs of burglary, Dean went to the backyard of the house, where he saw Jefferson at a window with a handgun she owned. Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew said that his aunt grabbed the weapon because she heard noises outside.

The main question of the trial was whether Dean saw the weapon before opening fire. Prosecutor Dale Smith contended that Dean did not announce himself and did not give Jefferson time to comply with commands such as raising her hands. Prosecutors have also alleged that Dean never saw the gun, and body camera footage released by the Fort Worth Police Department shows Dean shooting about a second after addressing Jefferson. Dean testified that he had seen the barrel of the gun pointed at him, so he opened fire. His defense attorney Bob Gill said in closing statements that Dean had a right to self defense.

Dean had completed his police academy training the year before the 2019 shooting, and quit the force two days after the shooting, hours before he was arrested and charged with murder. Dean will be sentenced at a later date. The maximum penalty for manslaughter in Texas is 20 years in prison.

Editorial credit: Tverdokhlib / Shutterstock.com

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