(FORT WORTH, Texas) — A jury has sentenced former police officer Aaron Dean to over 11 years in prison after he was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2019 shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson.
His official sentence was announced as 11 years, 10 months and 12 days in prison. He is not eligible for probation since the sentence was more than 10 years. Dean did not show any emotion at hearing his sentence.
“My sister did not do anything wrong. She was in her home,” Jefferson’s sister, Ashley Carr, said in victim impact statements after the sentencing. “She was murdered.”
“I pity your ignorance,” Carr added later. “You do not know enough to be ashamed; you’re not self-aware enough to understand your responsibility for this evil act.”
Dean was led out of the courtroom by the sheriff after Carr’s victim impact statement.
Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot by Dean, a white police officer, in her Fort Worth, Texas, home on Oct. 12, 2019.
Dean and another officer responded to a nonemergency call to check on Jefferson’s home around 2:30 a.m. because a door was left open to the house. Jefferson heard Dean outside the home and suspected he was a burglar since he never announced himself as an officer. She retrieved her gun and approached the window when Dean opened fire on Jefferson through the glass, striking and killing her in front of her 8-year-old nephew with whom she had been playing video games.
Dean’s lawyers argued during the trial that he was confronted by deadly force when he saw Jefferson with the gun and was within his right to respond with deadly force. However, Dean admitted on the stand that his actions constituted “bad police work.”
The prosecution and defense rested their cases in the sentencing phase Friday and delivered closing statements early Monday.
The same jury decided to convict Dean on Thursday for manslaughter as opposed to a harsher murder charge during roughly 13 hours of deliberations. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, according to the Texas penal code. It was punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. He did not have to pay a fine.
Lawyer Lesa Pamplin, a friend of Atatiana Jefferson’s family who had attended each day of the trial, said she was “grateful” for the sentence, though she said 20 years would have been “justice.”
Dean psychologist called as witness
The prosecution called on its first witnesses in the sentencing phase of the trial Friday morning.
Kyle Clayton, the psychologist who conducted a pre-employment psychological evaluation on Dean back in March 2017, took to the stand to speak about the results of the evaluation.
“There were indications from the [evaluation] of grandiosity and some interpersonal difficulties, including that this person would likely to be seen as domineering or over-controlling,” Clayton said Friday during sentencing testimony.
“These profile types tend to be those who are very concerned with sort of the facade of superiority and not appearing passive or weak in any way,” he added.
Clayton testified Friday he asked Dean to rank himself on a scale from zero to 10, with 10 meaning he had zero flaws.
Dean ranked himself as a nine, Clayton said, adding Dean said he’d be a 10 “if not for what he categorized as some stupid things that he had done in the past to — as he described it — piss people off.”
“He was not psychologically suitable to be a Fort Worth police officer,” Clayton testified.
Assault accusation against Dean
The prosecution brought a woman who accused Dean of assault in 2004 to testify in front of the jury.
She spoke about physical altercations between her and Dean and the verbal report and written statements she gave to University of Texas at Arlington police.
Dean pleaded no contest to the charge and was given a citation by local police, according to Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA.
Jefferson’s brother speaks out
Adarius Carr, Jefferson’s brother, said his younger sister was like his “best friend.”
“Being the only boy in the family … she was a tomboy, she was the one who, if I was playing basketball, she was playing with me, and if I was hanging out my friends, she was playing with me,” Carr said. “Video games, I’m pretty sure I’m the reason she started playing them.”
Jefferson had been staying at her mother’s home to help take care of her mother’s health and her own, according to Carr.
Defense character witnesses begin
The defense called on Tim Foster, who attended Dean’s church for several years.
He described Dean’s work with the church, including directing and putting together a musical program every year for the holiday season.
Foster described Dean as “dependable, upright, noble” and a “humble servant.”
Another churchgoer and friend of Dean’s family who has known him for more than 20 years testified that Dean is “a great guy.”
“He led by example,” the family friend said. “Of course, he’s been raised to be that way.”
Dean’s mother Donna told the jury Dean became an officer to “make a difference in people’s lives and wanted to help people.”
Officer, detective both take the stand
Christina Livingston, a court officer for the Tarrant County probation office, was also called by the defense. She outlined the restrictions and terms of probation that may be considered by the jury in Dean’s sentencing.
Fort Worth Detective Thomas Dugan, who was one of Dean’s field training officers several years ago, also took the stand Friday.
Dugan testified that Dean was “willing to learn and wanting to learn.” He said he was open to corrections in his training.
The fatal night
Dean did not park near the home, knock at the door or announce police presence at any time while on the scene, according to body camera footage and Dean’s testimony during the trial.
Dean testified that he suspected a burglary was in progress due to the messiness inside the home when he peered through an open door. When Dean entered the backyard, body camera footage showed Dean looking into one of the windows of the home.
Jefferson and her young nephew Zion were playing video games when they heard a noise, according to Zion’s testimony. Zion said his aunt had left the door open because they burned hamburgers earlier in the night and were airing out the smoke.
Jefferson grabbed her gun from her purse before approaching the window, Zion testified. Police officials have said Jefferson was within her rights to protect herself.
In body camera footage, Dean can be heard shouting, “Put your hands up, show me your hands,” and firing one shot through the window, killing Jefferson. According to a forensics video expert, there was half a second between his commands and when he shot Jefferson.
Dean resigned from the police department before his arrest. Fort Worth Chief of Police Ed Kraus has said Dean was about to be fired for allegedly violating multiple department policies.
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