A former Fort Worth officer, Texas police officer, is on trial for murder in 2019 the death of Atatiana Jefferson. Tuesday’s testimony by the partner in crime was that Aaron Dean never claimed to have seen anyone with a firearm the night Jefferson was shot and killed in her home.
Officer Carol Darch, and Dean were responding to a 911 call at Jefferson’s house when Dean, who was white, fatally shot Jefferson. Jefferson was a Black woman aged 28 who was playing video with her 8-year old nephew.
Darch, under questioning by the prosecution, testified that Dean had never used the word “gun” and that he didn’t see anyone with a gun before shooting her.
Darch stated that Dean led them as they approached Jefferson’s house. She claimed that the two thought they were at the scene a burglary but didn’t announce it.
After a neighbor saw that a door was unlocked, Dean and Darch arrived at the house and were called an emergency police line. According to court documents, Jefferson was playing video games late at night and caring for Zion Carr, her 8-year old nephew. According to body camera footage and police, Dean did not identify himself before he fired his weapon on Jefferson.
Dean pleaded not guilty Monday in the murder case.
Zion, now 11 years old, testified Monday that the screen doors had been opened after his aunt and he had cooked hamburgers for dinner. They continued playing video games until the early hours of the morning.
Zion claimed that his aunt pulled out her gun after hearing the noises outside and kept it with her. They were unaware that police had been called.
Darch claimed that Jefferson’s gun was not visible to her when she turned around and she could only see Jefferson through the window with “eyes like saucers”.
Darch stated that she saw Zion cry when she went to Jefferson’s room. She wrapped Zion in a blanket, and then took him outside.
She said, “I heard the baby and that was my sole focus.”
Darch wept as she spoke of being concerned about the boy’s wellbeing and asked the judge for a pause in her testimony.
Dean’s lawyers claim that Dean acted reasonablely in responding to what he thought might be a burglary-in-progress.
James Smith, the neighbor who called 911 that night, also testified Tuesday. He said he received a call around 2 a.m. from his family members expressing concern about his neighbors, as they had seen Jefferson’s front and side doors open.
Smith stated that he called 911 but not the emergency line because he wasn’t sure what was going on.
He said, “It didn’t appear to be an emergency.”
Smith stated that it was “devastating” to hear Jefferson was shot by police. He also said that he still lives with the consequences from his phone call and Jefferson’s death, and that he feels “somewhat” responsible.
Dean’s lawyers asked Smith if there was any crime in the area. He said that although there were some problems, the area where Smith lives was safe.
It could be lower. He said that it should be lower than what it is, referring specifically to the amount of crime in the area.
Jefferson’s death echos the death of Breonna Taylor (26-year-old Black woman shot to death by police in Louisville, Kentucky) in 2020. Both shootings drew widespread condemnation and led to calls for police accountability as well as racial justice within law enforcement.
Monday’s opening statements saw Jefferson’s funeral described by prosecutors as “an unjustifiable and unacceptable act that should never have happened.”
Miles Brissette was Dean’s attorney. He stated that Dean saw a gun raised and gave the command to fire.
Dean, who was arrested in December 2019 by a Texas grand jury on a murder charge, resigned from Fort Worth Police Department.
Jefferson received a degree from Xavier University in chemistry. After college, she returned home to care for her family and was planning on attending medical school.