Aaron Dean, the White former Texas police officer accused of shooting and killing Atatiana Jefferson, a Black woman, in her own home, has been found guilty of manslaughter.
Dean had been initially indicted on a murder charge. On Wednesday, the judge told jurors they could consider a manslaughter verdict.
Dean will be sentenced at a later date. The maximum penalty for manslaughter in Texas is 20 years in prison.
Dean arrived at Jefferson’s home on Oct. 12, 2019, responding to a call about an open front door. It was revealed during the long-delayed trial that Jefferson’s nephew had been over and that the home’s door was left open to vent smoke from hamburgers he burned. A neighbor had reported the open door to a nonemergency police line, and Dean testified that he believed a burglary was in process.
While looking for signs of burglary, Dean went to the backyard of the house. Jefferson was at a window with a handgun she owned. Jefferson’s nephew, who was 8 years old at the time of the shooting, said that his aunt grabbed the weapon because she heard noises outside.
The main question of the trial was whether Dean saw the weapon before opening fire. Dean testified that he had seen the barrel of the gun pointed at him, so he opened fire; his defense attorney Bob Gill said in closing statements that Dean had a right to self defense.
While making his case, prosecutor Dale Smith contended that Dean did not announce himself and did not give Jefferson time to comply with commands such as raising her hands. Prosecutors have also alleged that Dean never saw the gun and described him as a “gung-ho, hard-charger” who “just shot.” Body camera footage released by the Fort Worth Police Department shows Dean shooting about a second after addressing Jefferson.
Dean had completed his police academy training the year before the 2019 shooting, and quit the force two days after the shooting, hours before he was arrested and charged with murder.
Jefferson’s death, about seven months before the death of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests, also garnered outrage. CBS News DFW reporter Caroline Vandergriff said that the scene after the verdict was read aloud was emotional, with audible outrage in the background and chants of “no justice, no peace” from those who had been watching the trial.