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Testimony Begins In Trial Of Ex-Officer Who Killed Atatiana Jefferson

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Opening statements began Monday (December 5) in the trial of the former Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, in her home.

Prosecutors argued Monday that ex-officer Aaron Dean, who is white, didn’t see Jefferson holding a gun in the split second before he fatally shot her through the back window of her home in October 2019, CNN reports.

“This is not a circumstance where they’re staring at the barrel of a gun and he had to defend himself against that person or to protect his partner,” Tarrant County prosecutor Ashlea Deener said. “The evidence will support he did not see the gun in her hand. This is not a justification. This is not a self-defense case. This is murder.”

Miles Brissette, an attorney representing Dean, however, said the former officer saw an armed silhouette before firing and later found a firearm lying next to Jefferson’s body.

“In that window, he sees a silhouette,” Brissette said Monday. “He doesn’t know if it’s a male or female, he doesn’t know the racial makeup of the silhouette. He sees it, he sees the green laser and the gun come up on him. He takes a half-step back, gives a command, and fires his weapon.”

The contrasting opening statements come after Dean pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting death of Jefferson.

Police arrived at Jefferson’s house on October 12, 2019, in response to a nonemergency call made by a neighbor who said the 28-year-old’s door was open in the middle of the night.

Deener noted that Dean and his colleague didn’t identify themselves as police when they entered Jefferson’s backyard to scope out the property. Jefferson retrieved her own gun because she heard noises outside and saw a flashlight outside of her house.

“She had no idea it was someone who was supposed to serve and protect,” Deener said.

Brissette said the officers didn’t announce their identities because they were treating the situation like a potential robbery. The defense attorney called the fatal shooting a “tragic accident” but said it was “reasonable” for someone in Dean’s position.

Jefferson’s nephew, 8-year-old Zion Carr, who was with his “Aunt Tay” when she was shot, also testified as the prosecution’s first witness on Monday.

Carr said he didn’t hear or see what occurred outside the window, but saw his aunt fall to the ground and start crying.

“I was thinking, ‘Is it a dream?’” he testified. “She was crying and just shaking.”

The 8-year-old boy later found out his aunt had been killed.

“I was very upset,” he said Monday.

 Reading about Black trauma can have an impact on your mental health. If you or someone you know need immediate mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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