Atatiana Jefferson: Ex-Fort Worth police officer didn’t see gun in hand before shooting, prosecutor says



CNN

The former Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson, 28, in her own home in 2019 didn’t see her holding a gun in the split second before shooting her through a window rear, prosecutors said in their opening statements. murder trial on Monday.

“It’s not a circumstance where they’re looking down the barrel of a gun and he had to defend himself against that person or protect his partner,” Tarrant County District Attorney Ashlea Deener said. “The evidence will support that he didn’t see the gun in his hand. That’s not vindication. That’s not self-defense. That’s murder.

Still, former officer Aaron Dean’s defense attorney said he saw an armed figure with a green laser pointed at him and then found a gun next to Jefferson’s body.

“In that window he sees a silhouette,” attorney Miles Brissette said. “He doesn’t know if it’s male or female, he doesn’t know the racial makeup of the figure. He sees it, he sees the green laser and the gun pointing at him. He steps back half a step, give an order and shoot his weapon.

The contrasting opening statements come at the start of a trial that will feature thorny issues of race, police brutality, gun rights and body camera footage.

Dean, who is white, pleaded not guilty to murder for killing Jefferson, who is black, after shooting his home in October 2019 in front of his young nephew. The charge carries a sentence of 5 to 99 years.

Aaron Dean pleaded not guilty to murder in court on Monday, December 5.

The shooting took place after police responded to Jefferson’s home around 2:25 a.m. on October 12, 2019, in response to a neighbor reporting that his doors were open in the middle of the night. The neighbor called a non-emergency police number to request a security check at Jefferson’s home.

Deener, the prosecutor, pointed out that Dean and his partner at no time identified themselves as police officers during the visit to Jefferson’s home. Jefferson pulled out her own gun because she heard noises outside and saw a flashlight in her yard.

“She had no idea this was someone who was meant to serve and protect,” Deener said.

Brissette, the defense attorney, said officers were treating the situation as a potential theft in progress and not, as previously reported, as a welfare check, so they did not announce their presence. . He described the shooting as a “tragic accident”, but “reasonable” for someone in Dean’s position.

Heavily edited and released body camera footage showed an officer peering through two open doors, but he did not knock or announce his presence. Instead, he walked around the house for about a minute. Eventually, the officer approached a window and shone a flashlight into what appeared to be a dark room.

” Hands up ! Show me your hands!” the officer yelled before firing a single shot, according to body camera footage.

Zion Carr, 11, testified in court on Monday that her aunt Atatania Jefferson heard a noise outside and so pulled a gun from her purse moments before she was killed.

The first witness for the prosecution was Zion Carr, who was 8 years old and in the bedroom with her ‘Aunt Tay’ when she was shot.

Now 11, he testified that they had accidentally burned burgers earlier that night, so they opened the doors to clear the smoke from the house.

He and his aunt were up late playing video games when Jefferson heard a noise outside, and she then went to get her gun from her purse, he testified. He did not see her raise her gun to the window, he testified.

Zion said he didn’t hear or see anything from outside the window, but he saw his aunt fall to the floor and start crying.

“I thought, ‘Is this a dream?’ “, he testified. “She was crying and shaking.”

He was confused by what happened and only learned later that his aunt had been killed. “I was very upset,” he said.

Prosecutors pointed out in court that some of his testimony differed from an earlier statement he had given to a police investigator. On cross-examination, Zion said he did not recall this earlier statement.

Zion suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, Merritt said.

The trial is expected to last around two weeks and Judge George Gallagher has issued a gag order. Monday’s court day will be cut short so people can attend the funeral of lead defense attorney Jim Lane, who died suddenly in late November.

The shooting was widely condemned, with the National Black Police Association saying in a statement that killings of black citizens by white officers had “reached a critical mass”.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said at the time that Jefferson’s killing was unjustified and “unacceptable”.

Police initially said the officer fired his weapon after “perceiving a threat”. Officers provided medical attention after the shooting, police said.

Police say officers found a gun when they entered the room where Jefferson died. Video released by police showed two mostly blurry clips, which appeared to show a gun inside the house.

Dean, 34 at the time of the shooting, was hired in August 2017 and made a fired officer in April 2018, police said.

Two days after the shooting, Dean resigned from the police force and was arrested and charged with murder, a crime for which he was charged in December 2019.

The day after Dean’s arrest, Lane told CNN his client “is sorry and his family is in shock”.

Jefferson was trying to protect his nephew from what they both thought was a walker, according to an attorney for Jefferson’s family.

She had moved into her ailing mother’s Fort Worth home a few months earlier to care for her, family attorney S. Lee Merritt said at the time. She also took care of her nephews.

Jefferson graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2014 with a degree in biology and worked in pharmaceutical equipment sales, according to her family’s attorney.

The medical graduate, known as ‘Tay’, has been hailed as a loving, caring and reliable aunt who has achieved a great deal in life.

Since his death, family members have said they have struggled to watch videos of other police killings.

Jefferson’s father, Marquis Jefferson, suffered cardiac arrest and died in November 2019, just weeks after Dean fatally shot his daughter. He was 59 years old.

Jefferson’s mother, Yolanda Carr, died at her home in Fort Worth in January 2020 after falling ill, according to Merritt. Carr was ill and was unable to attend her daughter’s funeral.

Instead, Reverend Jaime Kowlessar read a letter from Carr during the service.

“You often said you were going to change the world,” Carr wrote. “I think you always will.”

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