The 35-year-old former Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed 28-year-old Atatiana “Tay” Jefferson in her home back in October has been indicted for murder.
The news that the case against Aaron Dean would move forward came down on Friday.
Attorney S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for Jefferson‘s family who also represented murder victim Botham Jean’s family, said that Jefferson’s family was relieved by the development but cautious.
The former @CityofFortWorth cop that shot #AtatianaJefferson to death in her home was indicted for murder by a Tarrant County Grand Jury today! Atatiana’s family is relived but remain cautious that a conviction and appropriate sentence is still a long way away. Keep pushing. pic.twitter.com/VAyN8FQwj3
— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) December 20, 2019
“The former @CityofFortWorth cop that shot #AtatianaJefferson to death in her home was indicted for murder by a Tarrant County Grand Jury today!” Merritt said. “Atatiana’s family is relived but remain cautious that a conviction and appropriate sentence is still a long way away. Keep pushing.”
Members of Jefferson’s family previously demanded justice during a press conference. The press conference was held on the same day that Dean went on to be charged with murder.
Jefferson’s brother, Adarius Carr, said, “This man murdered someone. He should be arrested.” Ashley Carr, one of Jefferson’s older sisters, said that her deceased loved one was “killed by a reckless act.”
“There is simply no justification for [the officer’s] actions,” she said.
Amber Carr, the victim’s older sister by 11 months, said it was her 8-year-old son that Jefferson was watching when she was killed. She also said her son was the first to tell her what happened. Jefferson was playing video games with the boy before she was shot. He witnessed the killing.
Merritt called for Dean to be “vigorously prosecuted,” saying he should be “treated like any other criminal suspect in the criminal justice system.”
“She was playing video games with her nephew when they heard what they believed to be a prowler creeping around the back window of the home,”Merritt said. “When she went to see what was going on she was confronted by an officer with his gun drawn shouting commands. With just seconds to comply, she was shot through the window.”
The police shooting occurred early on a Saturday morning (around 2:30 a.m.) — less than two weeks after a jury convicted former Dallas cop Amber Guyger of murder for shooting and killing Botham Jean in his own home.
TONIGHT: Lives cut short… shot at home by police… the deaths of Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson becoming a rallying cry across America. @Nightline co-anchor @byronpitts reports. https://t.co/qEaJBVj4bL pic.twitter.com/O2fHUgqDMF
— Nightline (@Nightline) December 20, 2019
In both of these cases, the officers were white and the victims were black. Guyger claimed that she parked on the wrong floor of her apartment complex, only to barge into Jean’s apartment thinking it was hers; she shot him to death believing he was an intruder, she said. In the Jefferson case, a neighbor called police at a non-emergency number because he was concerned that the front door of Jefferson’s home was open.
James Smith, 62, told reporters that he got a call from his niece that his neighbor’s front doors were open. He said this was unusual for Jefferson; he saw all the lights in the house were on. He said he called officers to the scene, but meant it only as a welfare check to make sure everything was okay. Smith said he gave no indication that this would have been a dangerous situation justifying officers approaching with their guns drawn. Smith said he didn’t know what was going on at the home, but maintained that Jefferson would not have been a threat.
“The front doors have been open since 10 p.m., and I haven’t seen anyone leave the house,” Smith told authorities.
A police officer, now known to be Dean, responded to the scene and killed Jefferson.
Police announced that Jefferson was shot and killed when officers responded to an Open Structure call. They noted that a front door to the residence was open. Responding officers searched outside the home, and saw a person standing inside near a window.
“Perceiving a threat the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” police said.
[Image via Tarrant County Correction Center]