In response to a Fort Worth police officer fatally shooting Atatiana Jefferson on body cam video while babysitting her nephew, Jefferson’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city, the police department, and the officer for violating her constitutional rights. Shortly after the officer resigned last year, he was indicted for Jefferson’s murder.
Around 2:25 a.m. on October 12, 2019, a neighbor called a non-emergency police number after noticing the front door open at a nearby house. According to Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus, the dispatch operator failed to report the welfare check to responding officers and instead only reported an “open structure” call.
Instead of knocking on the screen door or announcing their presence, the officers walked past two cars parked in the driveway and entered the backyard. With his flashlight aimed at a window, Officer Aaron Dean suddenly drew his gun and screamed, “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!”
Within three seconds, Dean fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson, 28, through the closed window without identifying himself as a police officer. According to the family’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt, Jefferson had been playing a video game late into the night with her 8-year-old nephew in the moments before she was killed.
According to Dean’s arrest warrant, Jefferson retrieved a gun from her purse when she heard noises outside her window. But Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has asserted that the gun is irrelevant because homeowners in Texas have the right to be armed on their own property.
Two days after the shooting, Dean resigned from the department. A few hours later, he was arrested for fatally shooting Jefferson.
On Monday, Jefferson’s family filed a lawsuit against the city of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Police Department, and former officer Aaron Dean for violating Jefferson’s constitutional rights along with assault and battery. The lawsuit states, “Defendant Dean in his prowl around the backyard of her home caused Atatiana fear and uncertainty. Dean shot Atatiana, causing pain and suffering. Dean failed to render medical aid to Atatiana.”
The suit claims that the city and the Fort Worth Police Department are liable because they knew or should have known that Dean “exhibited a pattern of escalating encounters with the public.” They also systematically failed to provide adequate training and supervision for its officers.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money for damages and attorney fees.
Dean continues to await trial for the murder of Jefferson.