Police

The Officer Who Shot Atatiana Jefferson in Her Own Home Has Resigned

Mayor Betsy Price: "The gun is irrelevant. She was in her own home caring for an 8-year-old nephew. [Jefferson] was a victim."

|

City leaders in Fort Worth, Texas, held a news conference today to provide more details on the fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, which occurred while she was watching her 8-year-old nephew.

Jefferson was killed in her own home early Saturday morning after a neighbor contacted the non-emergency line to ask for a welfare check. The neighbor, James Smith, told police that the lights were on in the house and the doors were open. He also noted that the family's vehicles were parked in the driveway and that it was normal for them to be home at the time.

Body camera footage shows two responding officers walking around outside to investigate. One of the officers, now identified as Officer Aaron Dean (Badge #4598), was seen shining a flashlight through a window and shooting immediately after shouting, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" At no point does the video show the officers announcing that they were law enforcement.

At the press conference, Mayor Betsy Price, Police Chief Edwin Kraus, and City Manager David Cook appeared before reporters.

Price began by apologizing on behalf of the city. Price also apologized to Smith, who says he now regrets calling the police, for having his "sense of security and trust in law enforcement jeopardized."

Price also addressed the footage of the shooting that was released by the Fort Worth police.

At one point, the video cuts to a blurry still of a gun that police said was inside of the house. At the time, police did not explain whether or not they saw Jefferson holding the gun, or if it was even in the room with her at the time of the killing.

"The gun is irrelevant," Price told reporters, with Kraus nodding behind her. "She was in her own home caring for an 8-year-old nephew. [Jefferson] was a victim."

Kraus began his statement by agreeing with Jefferson's father, who called the shooting "senseless."

Kraus said that both the Major Case Unit and Internal Affairs are investigating the shooting. He said that Officer Dean was served with an administrative complaint on Sunday, and had his badge and gun taken away. Kraus said he intended to fire Dean on Monday for violating the department's use of force policy, violating the deescalation policy, and displaying unprofessional conduct. But Dean submitted his resignation prior to their scheduled meeting.

Despite this, official administrative paperwork will show that he was dishonorably discharged from the department. Dean was hired by the department in 2017 and became a licensed police officer in 2018.

While Dean is no longer a city employee, the department will continue to investigate as though he was. Dean also faces criminal charges for his actions.

Dean's resignation means that his identity is officially released from the protections under state civil law. 

Cook offered condolences to Jefferson's family and noted that members of the community have called for an independent investigation of the shooting. With approval from city council, candidates for an independent monitor will be interviewed in November. In the meantime, a group of "third-party national experts" will also be tasked with reviewing the police department's policies and training practices.

The full press conference is available via Facebook:

News Conference - 10/14/19

Posted by Fort Worth Police Department on Monday, October 14, 2019

NEXT: States Are Easing Arbitrary Licensing Barriers to Work for People With Criminal Records

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “A blurry still of a gun…”

    *quietly judges*

    1. For those keeping score at home, the fact that the police had to present this (presumably real) image of a gun- not a gun in the hands of Jefferson, but a ‘gun’ seen somewhere in the property, tells me that the disposition of the police is this shooting is justified. Let that sink in for a moment.

      1. Yeah, when they let that little detail drop I was immediately surprised. Surprised firstly that she wasn’t holding the gun at the time, and further that the cops were willing to admit it without a subpoena. It definitely seems like they’ve made the correct decision to fire him – I also appreciate that despite his attempt to resign, they still noted his as a dishonorable discharge. It doesn’t do a lot, but hopefully it’ll keep him off any other police force in the future.

        1. Just wait until the sexts between Aaron and his partner are introduced to explain his difficult circumstances.

  2. I certainly hope that nobody uses the Tarrant county assessor’s database or a basic background check service like Intelius to find out where officer Aaron Dean lives and mete out vigilante justice. Because that would be wrong.

    1. Given a few days time, a man with a conscience might take care of it himself. Dean had only been a cop since last year.

      Unfortunately, a man with the ability to see the enormity of such a mistake and face the consequences is arguably redeemable. Ironically, he has to kill himself to prove it.

      1. It might be better if Dean speaks out about police training that led him to believe what he did was ok when he did it.

        Him killing himself will not serve a better purpose with respects to cops feeling justified when shooting people.

      2. Huh. He did resign. It may be a little premature to judge him.

  3. “The gun is irrelevant,” Price told reporters, with Kraus nodding behind her. “She was in her own home caring for an 8-year-old nephew. [Jefferson] was a victim.”

    With qualified immunity being a thing, this should always be the first reaction of authorities when a tragedy like this occurs. It would make zero difference if they jump up and accept full responsibility like this if a judge determines that there was no constitutional violation and the cop was performing public duties. Unless those people need to answer to the police unions, of course.

    Is it possible we may be starting to turn the page on ‘scaredy cops’ being given a pass by their superiors?

    1. I think it might be possible, as a wide variety of reform groups have been applying pressure on this subject for quite some time, and it seems like they’ve moved the needle enough on public opinion to get the politicos concerned.

      However, qualified immunity is still a thing, as is lax oversight (and active attempts to stymie oversight by police unions) and poor/flawed training. I think that these sorts of things are going to continue happening with depressing frequency for a while yet, before the changes that our collective displeasure induce them to take start having an impact. It’s worth noting most of the cops in the recent shooting incidents have been new on the job, so it seems that some of the training reforms already are having an impact on the ones who’ve been on the job long enough to have the sense to know what kind of situation they’re really in.

    2. I think it is possible, and I think that it will follow the example of building a dam higher and higher: it can only be done with flimsier and flimsier material, and the longer you keep denying reality, the harder it will bite.

      I hope the implosion is so dramatic that police unions take their share of the blame, and we get rid of qualified immunity, police unions, and the #BelieveCops dogma.

    3. I don’t know, given the police union seems to have been silent through this makes me believe he wasn’t paying dues.

    4. Between the raid in Houston and these two murders in DFW public opinion of the police is definitely moving in that direction in Texas.

  4. So the officer has resigned, and another dark chapter in the history of police malfeasance has at long last been closed. Now let us speak of this never again.

  5. Your neighbor’s door is open so you call the cops?

    1. Only if you don’t like your neighbor.

      1. Passive-aggressive SWATing?

    2. He knows now why that’s not a good idea.

  6. “The gun is irrelevant,” Price told reporters, with Kraus nodding behind her. “She was in her own home caring for an 8-year-old nephew.”

    “Wait… She had a *gun* in the presence of an *8-year-old*?! That changes *everything*!”

    1. The child is an absolute terror. The gun was for her safety.

  7. Price also apologized to Smith, who says he now regrets calling the police, for having his “sense of security and trust in law enforcement jeopardized.”

    Why, oh why, did this poor person have such an inaccurate impression of law enforcement?

  8. It’s things like this that remind me of something that Stephen Carter says he always tells his students at Yale Law: That every time you call the police, no matter how you think things might turn out, you are necessarily accepting the possibility that deadly violence will occur. The implication being that if you are willing to accept that possibility, then the reason why you are calling in the police should be appropriately dangerous to yourself or to others.

    1. That would also apply to pretty much any sort of legal action – even the most simple paperwork can spiral.

      ALL government is force.

  9. “The gun is irrelevant as we did not find any drugs in the house to make a justification trifecta.”

  10. But were procedures followed?

    1. No, he forgot to turn his body cam off before shooting someone in their own home, that’s a major violation of police procedure.

  11. He fired through a window into the house. WTF?

  12. https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-officer-pulled-gun-karaoke-bar-waitress-20191013-6v55al7lmjhdpgphxr4hgp4n6u-story.html

    Sources: NYPD officer menaced Queens karaoke waitress with gun, threatened to shoot her if she didn’t hang out with him

  13. Donald P Scott, gunned down in his living room during a bogus drug raid (the mission to find drugs then steal his land, however no drugs were found and the LEO’s said they did nothing wrong).

    http://www.saveourguns.com/scott001.htm

  14. When I read about this the other day, I thought: It was only a fucking welfare check! Why the hell are these cops skulking around the property and what were they looking for? How difficult is it to walk up to the front door, knock and announce themselves? Are people in the habit of shooting through their front doors or something? Did someone suggest there was a home invasion going on?

    Don’t ever call the police for anything I suppose is the way forward.

  15. Ken Ballew, killed in his house after plain clothes cops and ATF serve up a bogus knock-service daytime search warrant by breaking down the back door at night.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Ballew_raid

  16. From what I have heard on the news this death is caused by failed police training. The training apparently teaches the officers to be to twitchy on the trigger. It also fails to teach the officers to follow through on the SOPs. But this latter reason may be because there are none.
    But I must also add that when white police officers have learned by events that when the person is a African-american the person is less likely to follow instructions and is much more likely to attack the officer. So in part when the officer went to the house and it was open then when he saw a person with a weapon he reacted rather than checking further. This seams to be true not only of this police force but of police forces nation wide with some exception.

    1. He didn’t ‘see a person with a weapon.’ That’s what they tried to suggest by showing a picture of a gun, but if she’d had it in her hands they’d have shouted that from the rooftops. They wouldn’t stop excusing the split-second decision he had to make when he saw it. But he *didn’t* see it because he *couldn’t see her hands.* That’s why he was screaming at her to show them. If he’d seen a gun he would have been screaming, ‘Gun! Gun! Gun!’ Three hours elapsed from the time the neighbor called the non-emergency line and the cops showed up at the house. There was no rush, no priority, and very little pressure. The lights were on and the driveway filled with the family’s cars. Where’s the big terrifying pants-wetting emergency? For all that asshole knew she was the victim in the dangerous scenario he manufactured in his brain.

      1. “…but if she’d had it in her hands they’d have shouted that from the rooftops.”

        This * 1000. One can often get more information from the police by what they aren’t saying than what they are saying,

  17. The only time to call the cops is when you need them to come and pick up the bodies.

  18. People really need to have drummed into them that they should never, ever call the police unless it’s a real emergency, because any interaction they have can result in the death of innocent citizens.

  19. Well, good job Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Police Chief Edwin Kraus, and City Manager David Cook. Seriously. It’s nice to see police… mistakes… taken seriously, for once, instead of the usual knee- jerk reaction of circling the wagons.

    1. Didn’t take rocket science to see that this one was bad, bad, bad.

      Own home
      Mother
      Small child involved
      Black
      Shot inside from outside

      A singularity of fail that would have devoured anyone who so much as touched it.

  20. Was the cop a soldier who had been deployed overseas and trained to view peaceful people in their homes as deadly threats?

    This stuff never used to happen. Now it’s routine. Something has changed and I think it’s the huge amount of soldiers returning home with no other skill than the ability view others as deadly threats.

    1. No, soldiers are trained to follow the ROE. And not to be cowards.

    2. It’s clear you’ve never been in the military.

      For a perspective that covers it pretty well, see American Sniper, specifically the scene where he’s on over watch and sees a kid walking towards a patrol, and thinks he’s carrying a mortar (maybe it was some other explosive), but he’s not sure, and the discussion with his spotter is that if he’s wrong he’s going to spend the rest of his life in Leavenworth.

      Because if I’d done in the rock pile what cops do with impunity at home, I’d be in Leavenworth too.

      So the problem isn’t soldiers coming home and bringing their rules of engagement with them, it’s punks who never served abroad playing robocop on a power trip. The best example of this? There’s no qualified immunity in the military – if you’re wrong, you pay the price (for those of us who actually work, at least – offices have it a little different).

Please to post comments