Trial begins for Texas ex-cop who shot black woman out of window of her home

Prosecutors said in opening remarks in the former police officer’s murder trial on Monday that the shooting death of a Texas woman by a police officer through her window was “an unfair act that should never have happened.”

Aaron Dean, a white former Fort Worth police officer, is on trial for the 2019 murder of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman who was playing video games at home with her 8-year-old niece.

“This is not a case about a drug deal gone bad or a robbery,” Tarrant County Attorney Ashlea Deener said in her keynote speech Monday. “This is a case of a Fort Worth police officer, a foreigner, who fired from behind his bedroom window in the middle of the night when Atatiana was at home and should have been safe.”

Dean fatally shot Jefferson after a worried neighbor noticed a door left ajar and called a non-emergency police line. According to court documents, Jefferson was playing video games until late that night and caring for his 8-year-old nephew, Zion Carr. According to police and body camera footage, Dean was unable to identify himself before firing his gun and attacking Jefferson.

Dean denied the murder charge on Monday.

During the opening arguments, prosecutors shouted at Dean’s “Hands up! Show me your hands!”

Deener fired his gun so fast that Jefferson didn’t have time to “process and execute orders,” Deener said.

Zion, now 11, testified on Monday that the wire doors were open after he and his aunt burned the hamburgers they were planning to have for dinner. The duo then continued playing video games into the night.

Zion said that her aunt took out her gun after hearing noises from outside and kept it with her, both unaware that the police had been called to the house.

The boy said he didn’t see or hear anything outside, but his aunt guessed that the sounds might have come from a raccoon.

Zion said he saw his aunt fall to the ground and “cry and tremble”. Frightened, she testified and wasn’t sure if she was dreaming.

On cross-examination, Dean’s lawyers questioned whether Zion had told a juvenile case officer after he was shot that Jefferson had raised his gun to a window.

The issue at trial was whether Dean saw Jefferson’s gun and believed it was pointed at him. Prosecutors said on Monday the evidence would show that he “did not see the gun in his hand”.

“It’s not a situation where they look down the barrel of a gun and have to defend himself or protect his partner against that person,” Deener said. “Evidence will support that he did not see the gun in his hand. This is not an excuse. This is not a self-defense case. This is murder.”

Dean’s attorney, Miles Brissette, said during his opening remarks that Dean saw a gun raised, gave the order and fired.

“He sees a silhouette in that window,” he said. “She doesn’t know if it’s male or female, she doesn’t know the racial makeup of the silhouette. She sees him, sees the green laser and the gun coming at him. He takes a half step back, gives the command, and fires his gun.”

Brissette said Dean reacted this way because of the information given to the officers when they answered the call. He said Dean and another officer were treating the situation as an “open structure”, not a health check, and therefore did not announce their presence.

Jefferson’s death mirrors the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by police in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment in March 2020. Both gun attacks sparked widespread criticism and led to calls for police accountability and racial justice in law enforcement.

Dean, who resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department before being arrested, was charged with murder by a Texas grand jury in December 2019.

Jefferson graduated from Xavier University with a chemistry major. He returned home after college to help his family with health issues and was planning to attend medical school.

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