Former Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) officer Aaron Dean resigned before his onetime department was able to fire him after he shot and killed 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in her own home early Saturday morning.
FWPD officials say they cannot or will not release Dean’s official departmental photograph at this time–in a possible violation of Texas law. This stance directly contradicts prior statements made by the department about the former officer’s status. But after being pressed by Law&Crime, an internal affairs liaison said that the photograph request would be processed within 10 days.
“We will submit the photograph to the Texas Attorney General for their office to rule on whether it should be released,” Sergeant Justin Seabourn said. “They could rule either way, and we will abide by their ruling once we receive it.”
Fort Worth Police Sergeant Chris W. Daniels initially denied an open records request for Dean’s official photograph.
“Apologies, we will not be releasing his photo at this time,” Daniels wrote in an email to Law&Crime.
Minutes later, Fort Worth Police Public Information Officer Buddy Calzada similarly denied that same public records request via email.
“Apologies,” Calzada said, “we cannot confirm or provide a photo at this time.”
Calzada followed up after being pressed to defend the decision:
We are still in the process of gathering and sharing information, which is why we stated “not at this time.” Our office will share what we receive once that information is available.
Additional emails to Law&Crime confirmed the FWPD is withholding Dean’s official photograph under the Texas State Civil Service law.
Lt. Michael Brandon O’Neil responded to Law&Crime’s open records request by citing Civil Service Chapter 143: “RELEASE OF PHOTOGRAPHS OF POLICE OFFICERS,” which protects current police officers from public records requests.
The basis for the decision to withhold Dean’s official photograph, however, is in direct contradiction with an earlier statement made by Interim Forth Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus.
During a Monday afternoon press conference, Kraus said that Dean “no longer has the protections of state civil service law,” and therefore his name and identification number were being released to the public. But that memo apparently didn’t make it downstream.
“I demand a thorough, transparent and speedy investigation,” Kraus said. “This will not be an opportunity for us to make excuses but rather to investigate this case to the fullest to provide the justice we all seek for Atatiana.”
Texas Government Code Chapter 552 defines “public information” as follows:
“…information that is written, produced, collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business: (1) by a governmental body; (2) for a governmental body and the governmental body: (A) owns the information; (B) has a right of access to the information; or (C) spends or contributes public money for the purpose of writing, producing, collecting, assembling, or maintaining the information; or (3) by an individual officer or employee of a governmental body in the officer’s or employee’s official capacity and the information pertains to official business of the governmental body.”
After Law&Crime pointed out that O’Neil’s citation was inapplicable due to Dean’s status as a former officer–and a direct contradiction of his superior’s earlier statement–Seabourn responded that the citation provided “is applicable to this situation.”
Additional inquiries to FWPD went unanswered at the time of publication.
In the video at the top of the story, you can see the newly-minted Dean called to the center of the stage as he graduated from the Fort Worth Police Academy in 2018.
[image via screengrab/FWPD]