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A former Texas police officer has been convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a Black woman through a rear window of her home in 2019. 

Jurors found Aaron Dean not guilty of murder, but convicted him of manslaughter in the death of Atatiana Jefferson.

It came as a rare conviction of an officer for killing someone who was also armed with a gun. 

The conviction comes more than three years after the white Fort Worth officer shot the 28-year-old woman while responding to a call about an open front door.

Dean, 38, faces up to 20 years in prison on the manslaughter conviction. He had faced up to life in prison if convicted of murder. 

Former Texas police officer, Aaron Dean, has been convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a Black woman through a rear window of her home in 2019

Former Texas police officer, Aaron Dean, has been convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a Black woman through a rear window of her home in 2019

The conviction comes more than three years after the white Fort Worth officer shot Atatiana Jefferson, 28, while responding to a call about an open front door

The conviction comes more than three years after the white Fort Worth officer shot Atatiana Jefferson, 28, while responding to a call about an open front door

The judge told jurors Wednesday that they could also consider a manslaughter charge.

The Tarrant County jury returned the verdict after more than 13 hours of deliberation over two days. 

That followed six days of testimony and arguments in which the primary dispute was whether Dean knew Jefferson was armed when he shot her. 

Dean testified that he saw her weapon, prosecutors alleged the evidence showed otherwise.

The case was unusual for the relative speed with which, amid public outrage, the Fort Worth Police Department released video of the Oct 12, 2019, shooting and arrested Dean. 

He’d completed the police academy the year before and quit the force without speaking to investigators.

Since then, the case had been repeatedly postponed amid lawyerly wrangling, the terminal illness of Dean´s lead attorney and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dean shot Jefferson after a neighbor called a nonemergency police line to report that the front door to Jefferson´s home was open. 

It came as a rare conviction of an officer for killing someone who was also armed with a gun

 It came as a rare conviction of an officer for killing someone who was also armed with a gun

The courtroom and jury were shown a photograph of the gun found in the residence of Atatiana Jefferson, after she was fatally shot

The courtroom and jury were shown a photograph of the gun found in the residence of Atatiana Jefferson, after she was fatally shot

Zion Carr, 11, Jefferson's nephew, testified during the murder trial saying that he thought he was dreaming when his aunt fell to the floor after being shot

Zion Carr, 11, Jefferson’s nephew, testified during the murder trial saying that he thought he was dreaming when his aunt fell to the floor after being shot 

Dean joined the Fort Worth Police Department in April 2018, according to officials

Dean joined the Fort Worth Police Department in April 2018, according to officials 

She had been playing video games that night with her nephew and it emerged at trial that they left the doors open to vent smoke from hamburgers the boy burned.

Bodycam footage showed that Dean and a second officer who responded to the call didn’t identify themselves as police at the house. 

Dean and Officer Carol Darch testified that they thought the house might have been burglarized and quietly moved into the fenced-off backyard looking for signs of forced entry.

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There, Dean, whose gun was drawn, fired a single shot through the window a split-second after shouting at Jefferson, who was inside, to show her hands.

Dean testified that he had no choice but to shoot when he saw Jefferson pointing the barrel of a gun directly at him.

But under questioning from prosecutors he acknowledged numerous errors, again and again conceding that actions he took before and after the shooting were ‘more bad police work.’

Darch’s back was to the window when Dean shot, but she testified that he never mentioned seeing a gun before he pulled the trigger and didn’t say anything about the weapon as they rushed in to search the house.

Dean acknowledged on the witness stand that he only said something about the gun after seeing it on the floor inside the house and that he never gave Jefferson first aid.

Pictured: Atatiana Jefferson

Pictured: Atatiana Jefferson

Jefferson had been babysitting her nephew, who had been 8 at the time, when officers arrived at her home and allegedly did not identify themselves

Fort Worth Police released body camera footage of Dean firing the fatal shot through Jefferson's window. Investigators said the officer did not identify himself as police beforehand

Fort Worth Police released body camera footage of Dean firing the fatal shot through Jefferson’s window. Investigators said the officer did not identify himself as police beforehand

A bullet hole could be seen in the back window outside the Fort Worth home after the fatal shooting

A bullet hole could be seen in the back window outside the Fort Worth home after the fatal shooting

Retired black Fort Worth cop says she doesn’t trust her former colleagues in the wake of Jefferson shooting

Larhonda Young called for reform within the Fort Worth Police Department, just as Officer Aaron Dean, her former colleague, was charged with the murder for fatally shooting 28-year-old Jefferson.  

‘As a black female, former police officer, I’m afraid when I get stopped,’ Young told CBS News.  

‘Officers are shooting before assessing the situation. 

‘If that officer had simply knocked on the door, that young lady would be alive today.’  

Larhonda Dean

Larhonda Dean

Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew Zion Carr was in the room with his aunt when she was shot.

Zion, now 11, testified that Jefferson took out her gun believing there was an intruder in the backyard, but he offered contradictory accounts of whether she pointed the pistol out the window.

On the trial’s opening day, the 11-year-old Zion testified that Jefferson always had the gun pointed down, but in an interview that was recorded soon after the shooting and played in court, he said she had pointed the weapon at the window.

He told the court that he’d thought he was dreaming when his aunt fell to the floor after being shot by a cop through a bedroom window of her Texas home.

‘I was thinking is it a dream,’ Zion Carr said to the court.

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‘She was crying and shaking.’

Carr, who was playing video games with his aunt that night in October 2019, told the court that the doors to her home were open because they were trying to get smoke out after cooking hamburgers.

A concerned neighbor had seen the open door and called for a welfare check, which led to the tragic shooting.

Jefferson was holding a gun when she went to investigate a noise, but never raised it to point at the police officer who fatally shot her through the window, her nephew testified.

Defense attorneys contended that the child said otherwise immediately after the shooting.

The high-profile story of Jefferson’s death gained national attention and spurred protests against police brutality across North Texas.

Dean quit and was charged with murder two days after killing the 28-year-old while responding to a call about an open front door on October 12, 2019.

A large crowd later gathered outside Masjid Hassan Al Islam, a mosque next door to Jefferson's home on East Allen Avenue for a vigil in October 2019

A large crowd later gathered outside Masjid Hassan Al Islam, a mosque next door to Jefferson’s home on East Allen Avenue for a vigil in October 2019

Jefferson's death sparked outrage in the community where police had been trying to build relationships for years

Jefferson’s death sparked outrage in the community where police had been trying to build relationships for years

Four-year-old Trinity Ford joined the crowd gathered during the October 2019 vigil for Jefferson

Four-year-old Trinity Ford joined the crowd gathered during the October 2019 vigil for Jefferson

Hundreds of mourners attended Jefferson's funeral, including Fort Worth's mayor and the interim police chief in Dallas

Hundreds of mourners attended Jefferson’s funeral, including Fort Worth’s mayor and the interim police chief in Dallas

Body-camera footage showed that neither Dean nor the other responding officer identified themselves as police at the house.

Dean’s attorney, Miles Brissette, said the officer opened fire after seeing the silhouette of Jefferson with a gun in the window and a green laser light pointed at him. Prosecutors told the jurors that the evidence showed otherwise.

The video showed Dean approaching the door of the home where Jefferson was caring for her nephew.

He then walked around the side of the house, pushed through a gate into the fenced-off backyard and fired through the glass a split-second after shouting at Jefferson, who was inside, to show her hands.

Jefferson’s killing shattered the relationship police had been trying to build with communities in Fort Worth, about 30 miles west of Dallas. 

The city of 935,000 has long had complaints of racially unequal policing and excessive force.

The shooting drew swift rebuke from the then-police chief and Republican mayor, who at the time called the circumstances ‘unthinkable’ and said Jefferson having a gun was ‘irrelevant.’

Dean’s legal team used those comments repeatedly to try to move the case from Fort Worth, claiming the statements and news media attention would bias the jury pool.

News of Jefferson’s death was met with heartbreak and fury in the community and nationwide.   

Local activists marched through the streets of Fort Worth, briefly disrupting traffic on part of Interstate 35, at the time.

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A large crowd later gathered outside Masjid Hassan Al Islam, a mosque next door to Jefferson’s home on East Allen Avenue for a vigil.   

‘No justice, no peace,’ they chanted, holding signs that said: ‘Enough is enough’ and ‘We deserve respect.’

‘Everyone has the right to be angry but then what?’ attendee Nita Sullivan told the at times agitated crowd. 

‘You can only shake your fists at the sky so many times.’ 

Omar Suleiman, a Dallas-area imam and activist, told reporters at the time that he did not speak during the vigil because he was speechless.

News of the shooting captured nationwide attention as several lawmakers responded on social media. Democratic presidential candidate Sen Bernie Sanders called on the Justice Department to investigate

News of the shooting captured nationwide attention as several lawmakers responded on social media. Democratic presidential candidate Sen Bernie Sanders called on the Justice Department to investigate

Elizabeth Warren called for police reform to include 'federal standards for use of force that incorporate proven strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives'

Elizabeth Warren called for police reform to include ‘federal standards for use of force that incorporate proven strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives’

‘I think people feel perpetually traumatized,’ Suleiman said later. 

‘There’s a great sense of sadness and anger. Her family wanted us to know that she was human. That should go without saying.’ 

Local minister and activist Rev Kyev Tatum of Ministers Against Crime and the 3E coalition called on Texas Gov Greg Abbott and Lt Gov Dan Patrick to travel to Fort Worth to address the shooting with the local community to help quell anger and address the issue of police shooting unarmed civilians in their own homes. 

‘Our young people are not going to tolerate this, no matter how much we tell them to be cool, remain calm, that justice will be served,’ Kyev told WFAA at the time. 

‘When another mother loses her wife, a caregiver for both her eight-year-old nephew and a grandparent, loses her life in her own home, there’s something grossly wrong with the Fort Worth Police Department and they refuse to take responsibility for their actions.’

Several lawmakers reacted to the shooting on social media at the time as well.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen Bernie Sanders called on the Justice Department to investigate.

‘The killings of unarmed Black Americans have got to end,’ Sanders tweeted at the time.

‘Atatiana Jefferson should be alive.’

Elizabeth Warren called for police reform to include ‘federal standards for use of force that incorporate proven strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives.’

Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro tweeted an article about the shooting and said police shouldn’t make people ‘unsafe in [their] own homes.’

‘How many articles do we need to read or videos do we need to watch before we do something to reform policing in this country?’ he asked. 

A GoFundMe campaign  raised over $258,374 for Jefferson’s family.

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