Civil Rights Attorney: ‘A Lot of Road to Cover’ Before Atatiana Jefferson’s Family Gets Justice

Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean raises his gun to shoot Atatiana Jefferson.
Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean raises his gun to shoot Atatiana Jefferson. Fort Worth Police Department
While he called statements made by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and interim police Chief Ed Kraus "positive," the lawyer for the family of a woman shot and killed by a Fort Worth police officer said responsibility for the killing lies with the entire department, not just a single officer.

Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was shot and killed early Saturday morning at her home while playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew. Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, who is white, shot Jefferson, who was black, during a welfare check. A neighbor had called the Fort Worth police's non-emergency line and requested the check after noticing that the front door to the house was ajar.

Dean resigned from the department Monday and was arrested Monday evening on murder charges. He was booked into the Tarrant County jail and released on $200,000 bail.

During a press conference Monday, both Price and Kraus characterized the shooting as inexcusable and pledged to work to rebuild the community's trust.

On Tuesday morning, civil rights attorney Lee Merritt said those statements were positive, but there is "a lot of road to cover" before Jefferson's family gets justice, which he defined as a murder conviction and an appropriate sentence.

Merritt also called for greater accountability for the department's leaders, not just Dean himself. He noted that there have been 10 cases in Fort Worth in the last six months in which officers have shot and killed a suspect.

"This one officer obviously did something terrible and tragic, but this was a breakdown from the top to the bottom," Merritt said.
Body cam footage from the shooting shows an officer standing in the backyard of the house. When Jefferson appears in a window, the officer shouts, "Let me see your hands, put your hands up," then shoots through the window seconds later. He never identifies himself as a police officer.

On Tuesday morning, Jefferson's brother, Adarius Carr, said he couldn't believe officers were trained to act in the way that Dean did. If Dean did follow his police training, Carr said, then the training should be changed.
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Silas Allen has been the Dallas Observer's news editor since March 2019. Before coming to Dallas, he worked as a reporter and editor at the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City. He's a Missouri native and a graduate of the University of Missouri.
Contact: Silas Allen