The white Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman, in her home has resigned and faces possible criminal charges, police said Monday.
The officer, identified as Aaron Dean, would have been fired for violations of the department’s policies on use of force, de-escalation and unprofessional conduct had he not resigned on his own, Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said in a news conference.
The officer “still faces criminal charges” stemming from the investigation into the late-night shooting, Kraus said. The department has also asked the FBI to review Dean’s actions for possible civil rights violations, according to the chief.
“None of this information can ease the pain of Atatiana’s family, but I hope it shows the community that we take these incidents seriously,” Kraus said.
It is not clear whether Dean, who has been with the department since April 2018, has an attorney.
Earlier Monday, Jefferson’s family called for an independent investigation of the officer and the department’s practices.
“We demand justice,” Jefferson’s older sister, Ashley, said during a news conference, “through an independent, thorough and transparent process.”
The officer killed Jefferson in her home early Saturday by firing through a bedroom window. Police said they had been responding to a call about an open door at the residence.
Officers were dispatched to the home around 2:25 a.m. after a neighbor dialed a non-emergency line to request a welfare check because he noticed that the door was ajar and the lights were on.
While searching the outside of the house, police said, an officer saw someone standing near a window, and, “perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence.”
Jefferson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Body-camera footage released by police Saturday showed two officers walking quietly around the side of the house and peering through screen doors, then moving down a driveway into a backyard.
One officer approached a closed first-floor window and shined a flashlight inside, then swiftly raised his gun.
“Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” he yelled. A moment later, he fired through the window. He did not identify himself as an officer in the footage.
Along with the video, police released images of a firearm that officers said they found at the scene.
Officials did not release the officer’s name at the time, describing him only as a white male who has been with the department since April 2018. The department immediately placed him on administrative leave.
Lee Merritt, a local civil rights lawyer, has taken on the Jefferson case. On Monday, he demanded that an outside agency investigate the officer and the department’s practices, alluding to race-based discrimination.
“[The department is] trying to make a case for what we hear far too often: This officer perceived a threat and reacted according to his training,” Merritt said Monday, noting that in the past six months, there have been 10 officer-involved shootings in the area.
Merritt also represented Botham Jean’s family in the trial of former Dallas officer Amber Guyger earlier this month. The emotionally charged courtroom saga – which similarly involved a white officer who fatally shot Jean, an unarmed black man, in his home – drew nationwide attention when a jury convicted Guyger of murder and sentenced her to 10 years in prison.
Days after the sentencing, Joshua Brown, a key witness in the case, was fatally shot, stoking rumors that he was targeted because of his testimony. Police attributed Brown’s death to a drug deal gone awry and emphatically denied a connection to the Guyger case, but that has not quelled concerns from some local officials and activists, who have called for an independent investigation, as The Washington Post has reported.
It is not yet clear whether the officer who shot Jefferson will face criminal charges. Police said they will turn over body-camera footage and other relevant evidence to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, which will decide whether to pursue charges.
Jefferson is one of at least 689 people in the country who have been killed by police officers in 2019, according to a Post database that tracks such shootings. Of those, fewer than three dozen were women, four of whom were black.