Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean resigns after fatally shooting Atatiana Jefferson, could face charges

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The officer who shot the 28-year-old woman was identified by police only as a white male who has been on the force for about 18 months. USA TODAY

A Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot a black woman in her home while she played  video games with her 8-year-old nephew has resigned from the force but still could face criminal charges, the interim police chief said Monday. 

Chief Ed Krauss said Aaron Dean, who is white, would have been fired and is considered dishonorably discharged from the department. Krauss also said the U.S. Justice Department will examine the case for possible civil rights violations.

Atatiana “Tay” Jefferson, 28, was shot through her bedroom window early Saturday by an officer responding to a call from a neighbor who was concerned because her doors were open.

Hours before Krauss spoke Monday,  family members held their own news conference demanding that the officer be fired and criminally charged. Ashley Carr said her sister was killed by the officer’s “reckless act” and said the federal government should take over the investigation.

“There is simply no justification for his actions,” she said. “We demand justice for Atatiana thorough an independent and thorough investigation.”

Added Jefferson’s brother, Adarius Carr: “This man murdered someone. He should be arrested.”

Investigators were scheduled to interview the officer Monday, police Lt. Brandon O’Neil said. Police also released audio of a neighbor’s calm call to a non-emergency phone number that sent police to the home.

Jefferson worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. The officer has served on the force for 18 months, police said. The shooting took place less than two weeks after former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was convicted of murdering Botham Jean, a black man shot in 2018 as he ate ice cream in his home.

S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Jefferson’s family, said police not only violated Jefferson’s rights but also made “common sense” mistakes. And he called release of a photo of a gun found in the bedroom “obscene,” saying no connection had been made between the gun and the shooting.

“Why this man is not in handcuffs is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community,” Merritt said

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Mayor Betsy Price, speaking before Krauss, agreed Monday that the gun found in Jefferson’s home was “irrelevant.” 

“Atatiana was a victim… unjustly taken from her family,” Price said.

Merrit said the victim’s nephew told him the duo had been up late playing “Halo” – with the doors open to enjoy the cool fall breeze – when they heard noise outside her bedroom window.

“They looked at each other and listened more intently when they heard it again,” Merritt said in a social media post. “Someone was outside.”

Merritt said the nephew described how his aunt went to the window to see who was there.

“Suddenly a man’s voice was screaming something he couldn’t make out, and then ‘bang,'” Merritt said. Jefferson fell to the floor. Merritt said he didn’t ask the child what he saw next because he didn’t want him “to have to relive that” with him.

“I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m a little afraid when I’m honest,” Merritt said. “I hate this happened to (the nephew). I hate it happened to Tay and her beautiful family. This has to stop now. Enough.”

O’Neil said neighbor James Smith called police at 2:23 a.m. Saturday morning, telling the dispatcher it was “not normal” for his neighbors to have the doors open and lights on at that hour.

Two officers arrived six minutes later. They did not park in front of the house, O’Neil said. Body camera video released by police shows officers, armed with guns and flashlights, circling the home. An officer stops at a window.

The video ends with an officer shouting, “Put your hands up, show me your hands” before the sound of one gunshot. Jefferson was killed with a bullet fired through her bedroom window.

O’Neil confirmed what the video appeared to show – that the officer never identified himself as police. He also confirmed that Jefferson’s nephew was in the room.

Activist Cory Hughes said the community wanted more than a suspension for the officer.

“What we are looking for is for this officer not only to be fired but to we are demanding that his officer be charged as well, like the criminal that he is,” Hughes said. “This life mattered. This family matters.

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