The family of Atatiana Jefferson, the Texas woman who in late 2019 was shot and killed at 28 by police in her own home, is suing the city and the officer who fired his weapon over the emotional trauma inflicted on Jefferson’s young nephew, who was in the same room as his aunt at the time she was killed.
The complaint was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas by one of Jefferson’s older sisters, Amber Carr, on behalf of her minor son, Zion Carr. In addition to former Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean, who shot Jefferson, the named defendants to the action are the city of Fort Worth, former Police Chief Ed Kraus, and the city’s former Mayor Betsy Price.
Carr’s mother alleged multiple violations of her son’s Fourth Amendment rights resulted in him suffering “extreme and severe mental and emotional distress, anxiety, terror and agony.”
As previously reported by Law&Crime, in October 2019, Jefferson was watching Zion at the home shared by her and her mother because Amber had been hospitalized due to medical issues. Jefferson and her nephew had stayed up late and were playing video games in the living room and left the front door to the house opened “to allow a cool breeze into the home,” according to the complaint.
At approximately 2:30 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2019, a neighbor called the Fort Worth Police Department’s non-emergency line to report that Jefferson’s door had been left open (the door was usually closed at that hour). Responding to the call, Dean and his partner parked around the corner, then opened a closed fence leading to Jefferson’s backyard and began peering into the windows.
“Ms. Jefferson became aware that someone was lurking outside, but had no way of knowing who or why was someone was outside,” the complaint said. “Ms. Jefferson went to the window to investigate. When Ms. Jefferson looked out the window, Officer Dean immediately flashed a light on her, shot her, and killed her.”
The allegations in the filed complaint appear to coincide with bodycam footage released in the wake of the shooting. The tape showed Dean searching the perimeter of the home then moving to the backyard. Seconds later, he can be seen shining his flashlight through the window and yelling, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” He then fired a fatal shot through the windowpane.
“At the age of 8, [Zion] was forced to watch the murder of his aunt, Atatiana Jefferson, at the hands of Fort Worth Police,” the complaint claimed. “After Officer Dean shot Ms. Jefferson, he and his partner entered the house and attempted to give CPR to her as she bled on the floor of her own home in front of [Zion]. [Zion] was forced to watch his aunt die in front of him.”
The suit additionally alleged that, following the shooting, Zion was threatened by Officer Dean and then unconstitutionally interrogated by police without parental consent.
“Defendant Officer Dean engaged in a course of conduct that violated Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights which began with his unlawful entry onto the property and culminated with him murdering Ms. Jefferson in front of [Zion] and assaulting [Zion] by threatening him with a deadly weapon, a firearm,” the suit stated.
Dean, who had been on the force since 2018, was arrested and charged with murder days after shooting Jefferson. He was released after posting bond of $200,000. A trial date has not yet been scheduled.
The police department, and the public officials in charge at the time of the shooting are culpable for displaying “a consistent and systematic failure to properly train and supervise its officers on the proper use of force, and techniques and principles of de-escalation.” Such failures have resulted “in numerous incidents of officers unnecessarily using force resulting in serious bodily injury and death, particularly against people of color,” the complaint alleged.
“Policymakers Chief Kraus and/or Mayor Price knew of the failures of the Fort Worth Police Department as discussed herein but failed to take the necessary steps to rectify the failures and adequately protect the constitutional rights of the people of Fort Worth,” the complaint added. “These failures and the refusal to rectify them were the moving force behind the deprivation of [Zion’s] constitutional rights.”
The suit seeks a judgment for an untold amount in damages as well as medical bills and attorneys’ fees.
Jefferson’s relatives in November filed a separate wrongful death suit against former Officer Dean.
Read the full lawsuit below.
[image via Inside Edition screengrab]
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